Before taking a little break for summer, here are a few random, personal thoughts about a variety of topics, in no particular order.
** Summer is a good time to catch-up on reading, and this summer I hope to do a careful and prayerful reading of the Apostolic Letter of Pope Francis on holiness, “Gaudete et Exsultate.” In his letter, the Pope calls us to follow a path of everyday, practical holiness. For example, he writes: “We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do . . . Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness.” (#14, 15)
** The Church needs to respond to the challenges of the age in a way that is both charitable and truthful. To that end, I recently wrote, “Perhaps the most important distinction in Catholic life today is this: Should we love, embrace and accompany all people? Absolutely! Jesus demands it. Should we accept and condone every lifestyle and behavior? Nope! Jesus demands that too.”
** It’s clear that the immigration policy of our country is a mess and in urgent need of repair, but the Trump policy of separating children from their parents was a huge mistake; it was wrong, from every perspective. It’s really sad that our political leaders, from all sides, cannot rise above their partisan bickering to repair the immigration system and find a way to care for the immigrant and refugee families who come to our nation seeking freedom, peace and prosperity.
** And while we lament the plight of the children separated from their parents at the borders, we shouldn’t forget for a moment the many children separated from their parents – permanently – at Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics. Where is the political outrage over that violent, cruel, and inhumane practice? Rhode Island politicians don’t have to travel to the southwest corners of our country to save kids. Just stop funding Planned Parenthood.
** 50 years after Vatican II, the liturgical wars continue. I don’t understand why “liberals,” with their standard lexicon of diversity, tolerance and inclusion, are so afraid of and opposed to the Latin Mass. On the other hand, I think “conservatives” are unrealistic and short-sighted when they pin their hopes for the resolution of every ecclesial problem on the traditional Latin Mass. The Holy Mass, properly celebrated – traditional or contemporary, in Latin, English or other languages – is the Sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Let’s not lose sight of that by fighting over its external form.
** Although I’ve talked about it on several other occasions, it bears repeating: Pastoral Planning in the Diocese of Providence will be the “new normal” for us. In the last few years there have been 15 parish mergers or affiliations; 12 churches have been closed; and 11 of those have been sold. With changes in demographics, the decline in sacramental practice, financial challenges, and the aging of the clergy, these changes will continue and even accelerate in the days to come. Do not be surprised if your parish – yes your parish – has to share a pastor, change its Mass schedule, merge with another parish, or even close.
** No need to despair, though, or be discouraged. Even with the changing numbers, the mission of the Church in the Diocese of Providence continues to be strong and vibrant. Every day we are gathering people for worship, preaching the Gospel, educating children, providing numerous social services, and advocating for a better society. The Diocese of Providence has been here for nearly 150 years, and throughout its history has experienced many, many changes. Regardless of the structural changes to come, we are supremely confident that the work of the Church will prosper, and that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8: 39)
** And, in speaking of the future, I can report that our diocesan Capital Campaign, “Grateful for God’s Providence,” is off to a very good start. Even though only a handful of parishes have begun the campaign, I am pleased to say the total pledged so far is nearing $14 million. That includes a number of wonderful special gifts from lead donors, and also donations from our priests of over $800,000! The Campaign is a very important initiative in the history of our Diocese, and I hope everyone will be supportive and generous. It’s a sign of our faith and love, a sign that we are “Grateful for God’s Providence,” and fully committed to the future that is ours.
** I love my dog as much as the next guy, but a catalogue of dog products I received recently suggests that our culture might be over the top in pampering our pets. Canine products included “embroidered nylon harnesses in 13 colors” and “unique traction socks for indoors or out” and “medicinal mushroom powder and oil.”
** A number of people have asked me, “How are the Steelers going to do this year?” My standard response: “Ask me in December.” Both Coach Tomlin and Quarterback Big Ben have said that they’re confident and ready to go. But I’d feel better if they would learn to beat teams like Jacksonville. And the Patriots. In any event, look for the Steelers banner to return to its rightful place again around Labor Day with the hope of another winning season.
** Have a great summer, everyone!