Category Archives: National News

Domestic Justice and Education Chairmen Urge Concrete Actions to Address Scourge of Gun Violence

photo by Fabrice Florin from Mill Valley, USA (Tam High Vigil for Parkland School Shooting)  [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON—In the aftermath of the tragic attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCBs Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio, Chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, urged national leaders to finally come together and address the crisis of gun violence in a comprehensive way.

The full statement follows:
“Once again, we are confronted with grave evil, the murder of our dear children and those who teach them. Our prayers continue for those who have died, and those suffering with injuries and unimaginable grief. We also continue our decades-long advocacy for common-sense gun measures as part of a comprehensive approach to the reduction of violence in society and the protection of life.

Specifically, this moment calls for an honest and practical dialogue around a series of concrete proposals—not partisanship and overheated rhetoric. The idea of arming teachers seems to raise more concerns than it addresses. Setting a more appropriate minimum age for gun ownership, requiring universal background checks (as the bishops have long advocated), and banning ‘bump stocks are concepts that appear to offer more promise. We must explore ways to curb violent images and experiences with which we inundate our youth, and ensure that law enforcement have the necessary tools and incentives to identify troubled individuals and get them help.

Most people with mental illness will never commit a violent act, but mental illness has been a significant factor in some of these horrific attacks. We must look to increase resources and seek earlier interventions.

For many years, the USCCB has supported a federal ban on assault weapons, limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines, further criminalizing gun trafficking, certain limitations on the purchase of handguns, and safety measures such as locks that prevent children and anyone other than the owner from using guns without permission.

The advocacy by survivors of the Parkland shooting—and young people throughout our nation—is a stark reminder that guns pose an enormous danger to the innocent when they fall into the wrong hands. The voices of these advocates should ring in our ears as they describe the peaceful future to which they aspire. We must always remember what is at stake as we take actions to safeguard our communities and honor human life. In the words of St. John, ‘let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth (1 Jn. 3:18).”

USCCB Offers Congratulations to Pope Francis on His Fifth Year Anniversary

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Administrative Committee has issued the following statement today marking the fifth anniversary of the election of Pope Francis. The Administrative Committee is comprised of USCCBs officers, committee chairmen and other bishops representing every region of the United States.

Full statement follows:
“The members of the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, now gathered in ordinary session on the 13th day of March 2018, take this opportunity to express our filial affection on the fifth anniversary of your election to the Chair of St. Peter.
May the Lord bless you with His grace as you confirm all the brothers and sisters in unity and shepherd us in charity.”

From the Pope: Eucharistic Liturgy: I. Presentation of Gifts

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Let us continue with the catechesis on the Holy Mass. The Liturgy of the Word – on which I have reflected in the last catecheses – is followed by the other constitutive part of the Mass, which is the Eucharistic Liturgy. In this, through the holy signs, the Church continuously makes present the Sacrifice of the new covenant sealed by Jesus on the altar of the Cross (cf. Vatican Ecumenical Council II, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 47). It was the first Christian altar, that of the Cross, and when we approach the altar to celebrate Mass, our memory goes to the altar of the Cross, where the first sacrifice was made. The priest, who in the Mass represents Christ, carries out what the Lord Himself did and handed over to the disciples at the Last Supper: He took the bread and the cup, gave thanks, and gave them to the disciples, saying: “Take, eat, and drink: this is my Body; this is the cup of my Blood. Do this in memory of me.”

Obedient to the command of Jesus, the Church has arranged the Eucharistic Liturgy in moments that correspond to the words and gestures made by him on the eve of his Passion. Thus, in the preparation of the gifts, bread and wine are brought to the altar, that is, the elements that Christ took in his hands. In the Eucharistic Prayer we give thanks to God for the work of redemption and the offerings become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is followed by the breaking of the Bread and the Communion, through which we relive the experience of the apostles, who received the Eucharistic gifts from the hands of Christ himself (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 72).

The first gesture of Jesus: “He took the bread and the cup of wine,” therefore corresponds to the preparation of the gifts. It is the first part of the Eucharistic Liturgy. It is good that the faithful present the bread and wine to the priest, because they signify the spiritual offering of the Church gathered there for the Eucharist. It is beautiful that it is the faithful themselves who bring the bread and wine to the altar. Although today “the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy as in the past, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still retains its force and its spiritual significance” (ibid., 73). And in this regard it is significant that, in ordaining a new priest, the bishop, when he gives him bread and wine, says:  “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God” (Roman Pontifical – Ordination of bishops, priest and deacons).

The people of God who bring the offering, the bread and the wine, the great offertory for the Mass! Therefore, in the signs of bread and wine, the faithful people place their offering in the hands of the priest, who lays it on the altar or table of the Lord, “which is the center of the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist,” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 73). That is, the center of the Mass is the altar, and the altar is Christ; we must always look at the altar, which is the center of the Mass. In the “fruit of the earth and the work of man,” the faithful therefore offer their commitment to make of themselves, obedient to the divine Word, a “sacrifice pleasing to God the Father Almighty,” “for the good of all His holy Church.” Thus “the lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1368).

Of course, our offering is small, but Christ needs this little that we give. He asks little of us, the Lord, and he gives us much. He asks little. He asks us, in ordinary life, for good will; he asks us for an open heart; he asks us for the desire to be better, to welcome him, he who offers himself to us in the Eucharist; he asks us for these symbolic offerings that then become his body and his blood. An image of this oblative movement of prayer is represented by the incense which, consumed in the fire, releases a fragrant smoke that rises upwards: incensing the offerings, as is done on feast days, incensing the cross, the altar, the priest and his people visibly manifests the offertory bond that unites all these elements to Christ’s sacrifice (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 75). And do not forget: there is the altar, which is Christ, but always with reference to the first altar, which is the Cross, and on the altar that is Christ, we bring our small gifts, the bread and the wine, which will then become great: Jesus himself who gives life to us.

And all this is also expressed by the offertory prayer. In it the priest asks God to accept the gifts that the Church offers Him, invoking the fruit of the wonderful exchange between our poverty and His wealth. In the bread and in the wine we present to Him the offering of our life, so that it may be transformed by the Holy Spirit into the sacrifice of Christ and become with Him the single spiritual offering pleasing to the Father. While the preparation of the gifts is concluded, the Eucharistic Prayer is recited (cf. ibid., 77).

The spirituality of the gift of oneself, that this moment of the Mass teaches us, can illuminate our days, our relationships with others, the things we do, and the sufferings we encounter, helping us to build the earthly city in the light of the Gospel.

Bishop Conference President Reaction to Shooting at Florida High School

WASHINGTON—Following the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for prayer and healing.

The full statement is as follows:

“We are deeply saddened by the shootings in Broward County, Florida, and by the needless and tragic loss of life. May the mercy of God comfort the grieving families and sustain the wounded in their healing. Catholics and many other Christians have begun the journey of Lent today. I encourage us to unite our prayers and sacrifices for the healing and consolation of all those who have been affected by violence in these last weeks and for a conversion of heart, that our communities and nation will be marked by peace. I pray also for unity in seeking to build toward a society with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence. Our hope is in the Lord, as he promised after his resurrection, ‘behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age’ (Mt. 28:20).”

Federal Budget Should Build Toward Common Good, Say U.S. Bishops

WASHINGTON— After the Trump Administration released its federal budget proposal, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, and the Most Reverend Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, expressed deep concerns about many of the priorities outlined in the blueprint, and called on Congress to “ensure a budget for our country that honors our obligations to build toward the common good.”

The full statement follows:

“The federal budget is a moral document, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has consistently urged our national leaders to consider important principles when deciding how to steward the finite resources entrusted to it by the American people. Budget decisions ought to be guided by moral criteria that safeguard human life and dignity, give central importance to ‘the least of these,’ and promote the well-being of workers and families who struggle to live in dignity. Our nation must never seek to balance the budget on the backs of the poor at home and abroad.

February 13, President Trump unveiled a budget plan, ‘Efficient, Effective, Accountable: An American Budget,’ that again calls for deep cuts to vital parts of government, including underfunding programs that serve the poor, diplomacy and environmental stewardship. At the same time, the plan calls for increases in immigration enforcement spending and further increases in military spending, including on nuclear weapons. Prohibiting certain abortion providers from receiving federal funds and providing increased resources to combat opioid addiction is commendable. However, we urge Congress—and every American—to evaluate the Administration’s budget blueprint in light of its impacts on those most in need, and work to ensure a budget for our country that honors our obligations to build toward the common good.” •

From the Pope: Open Your Ears to the Readings at Mass

from Vatican Information Services 

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Let us continue with the catechesis on Holy Mass. We had arrived at the Readings.

The dialogue between God and His people, developed in the Liturgy of the Word of the Mass, reaches its peak in the proclamation of the Gospel. It is preceded by the singing of the Alleluia – or, during Lent, another acclamation – with which “the assembly of the faithful welcomes and greets the Lord who is about to speak to it in the Gospel.” Just as the mysteries of Christ illuminate the entire biblical revelation, so, in the Liturgy of the Word, the Gospel is the light for understanding the meaning of the biblical texts that precede it, both of the Old and of the New Testament. In fact, “Christ himself is the center and fullness of all the Scripture, as he is of the entire liturgy.Jesus Christ is always at the center, always.

This is why the liturgy distinguishes the Gospel from the other readings, and surrounds it with particular honor and veneration. Indeed, its reading is reserved to the ordained minister, who ends by kissing the book; we listen standing and we make the sign of the cross on the forehead, the mouth and the chest; the candles and incense honor Christ who, through the Gospel reading, makes his effective word resonate. From these signs the assembly acknowledges the presence of Christ who addresses to it the “good news” that converts and transforms. It is a direct discourse that takes place, as affirmed by the acclamations with which it responds to the proclamation “Glory to you, O Lord” and “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.” We stand to listen to the Gospel, but it is Christ who speaks to us, there. And this is why we are attentive, because it is a direct conversation. It is the Lord who speaks to us.

So, in the Mass we do not read the Gospel to know how things went, but we listen to the Gospel to be aware of what Jesus did and said once; and that Word is living, the Word of Jesus that is in the Gospel is living and arrives to my heart. This is why listening to the Gospel is so important, with an open heart, because it is the living Word. Saint Augustine writes that “the mouth of Christ is the Gospel. He reigns in heaven, but never ceases to speak on earth.” If it is true that in the liturgy “Christ is still proclaiming his Gospel,” it follows that, by participating in Mass, we must give him an answer. We listen to the Gospel and we must give an answer in our life.

To make his message reach us, Christ also uses the word of the priest who, after the Gospel, pronounces the homily.Strongly recommended by Vatican Council II as part of the same liturgy, the homily is not a circumstantial speech, nor a catechesis like the one I am giving now. It is neither a conference nor a lesson. The homily is something else. What is a homily? It is the resumption of “a dialogue between God and His people,” so that it may find fulfilment in life. The authentic exegesis of the Gospel is our holy life! The Word of the Lord ends its path by becoming flesh in us, by being translated into words, as in Mary and in the saints. Remember what I said to you last time: the Word of the Lord enters the ears, reaches the heart and goes to the hands, to good works. And the homily too follows the Word of the Lord and also makes this journey to help us, so that the Word of the Lord arrives at the hands, passing via the heart.

I have already considered the subject of the homily in the Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, in which I recall that the liturgical context “demands that preaching should guide the assembly, and the preacher, to a life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist.”.

He who pronounces the homily must perform his ministry well – whoever preaches, the priest or the deacon or the bishop – offering a real service to all those who participate in the Mass, but also those who listen to it must do their part. First and foremost, they must pay attention, which means assuming the right inner predispositions, without subjective demands, knowing that every preacher has his gifts and his limits. While at times there is reason to be bored by a long, unfocused or incomprehensible homily, other times instead the obstacle is prejudice. And he who pronounces the homily must be aware that he is not doing something of his own, he is preaching, giving voice to Jesus, he is preaching the Word of Jesus. And the homily must be well prepared, and it must be brief, brief! A priest said to me that once he went to another city, where his parents lived, and the father had said to him “You know, I am happy, because my friends and I have found a church where there is Mass without the homily!” And how often we see that during the homily some people fall asleep, others chat, or go outside to smoke a cigarette. So, please, let it be brief, the homily, but let it also be well prepared. And how do you prepare a homily, dear priests, deacons and bishops? How do you prepare it? With prayer, with the study of the Word of God, and by giving a clear and brief summary, which must not exceed 10 minutes, please.

In conclusion, we can say that in the Liturgy of the Word, through the Gospel and the homily, God engages in dialogue with His people, who listen to Him with attention and veneration and, at the same time, acknowledge that He is present and working. If, then, we listen to the “good news,” we will be converted and transformed by it, and capable of changing ourselves and the world. Why? Because the Good News, the Word of God which enters through the ears, goes to the heart and arrives at the hands, to do good works. •

From the Pope: The Hymn of the Gloria and the Prayer of the Collect

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning! During our catechesis on the Eucharistic celebration, we have seen that the Penitential Act helps us to divest ourselves of our presumptions and to present ourselves to God as we really are, conscious of being sinners, in the hope of being forgiven.

It is precisely from the encounter between human misery and divine mercy that there comes the gratitude expressed in “Gloria,” “a very ancient and venerable hymn in which the Church, gathered together in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 53).

The beginning of this hymn resumes the song of the Angels at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, a joyous announcement of the embrace between heaven and earth. This song also engages us, gathered in prayer: “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace to people of good will.”

After the “Gloria,” or, when it is not included, immediately after the Penitential Act, prayer takes a particular form in the oration called the “Collect,” by means of which the proper character of the celebration is expressed, variable according to the days and times of the year. With the invitation to “pray,” the priest exhorts the people to gather with him in a moment of silence, in order to become aware of being in the presence of God and to bring out, each in his own heart, the personal intentions with which he participates in Mass. The priest says, “Let us pray,” and each person thinks of what they need, what they wish to ask for, in the prayer.

Silence is not reduced to the absence of words, but rather it is the willingness to listen to other voices: that of our heart and, above all, the voice of the Holy Spirit. In the liturgy, the nature of the sacred silence depends on the moment in which it takes place: “Within the Act of Penitence and again after the invitation to pray, all recollect themselves; but at the conclusion of a reading or the homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts.” So, before the initial prayer, silence helps us to gather ourselves and to think of why we are here. Here, then, there is the importance of listening to our heart to then open it to the Lord. Perhaps we come from days of weariness, of joy, of pain, and we want to say so to the Lord, to invoke His help, to ask Him to be close to us; we have relatives or friends who are ill or who are going through difficult times; we wish to entrust to God the fate of the Church and the world. And this is why we need this brief silence before the priest, gathering the intentions of each person, expresses in a loud voice to God, on behalf of all, the common prayer that concludes the rites of introduction, making the “collection” of individual intentions. I strongly recommend that priests observe this moment of silence and not to be hasty: “Let us pray,” and then silence. I recommend this to priests. Without this silence, we risk neglecting the recollection of the soul.

The priest recites this entreaty, this prayer of the Collect, with his arms outstretched, in the attitude of the person praying, adopted by Christians since the early centuries – as the frescoes of the Roman catacombs testify – to imitate Christ with open arms on the wood of the cross. And there, Christ is the Orante and it is prayer together! In the Crucifix we recognize the priest who offers to God the worship he pleases, that is filial obedience.

In the Roman Rite the prayers are concise but full of meaning: many beautiful meditations can be made on these prayers. So beautiful! Going back to meditating on the texts, even outside of Mass, can help us learn how to turn to God, what to ask, what words to use. May the liturgy become for all of us a true school of prayer.  •

USCCB President Calls for Courage and Commitment on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

WASHINGTON— The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, has issued the following statement in relation to the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“In recent years—including last summer in Charlottesville—we have glimpsed an appalling truth that lurks beneath the surface of our culture. Even with all the progress our country has made on the issue, racism remains a living reality. As our nation celebrates the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are given an important time to recommit ourselves to the Gospel message he preached, that the sin of racism can be defeated by active love and the light of faith.

Our challenge is to bring Dr. King’s message into the present moment in a way that inspires lasting change. In a pivotal 1958 essay, he wrote that: ‘Along the way of life, someone must have the sense enough and the morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.’

Breaking the chain of hate requires both courage and commitment. Sr. Mary Antona Ebo, a Franciscan Sister of Mary and the first African-American sister to march with Dr. King in Selma, exemplified these qualities. She told those gathered that: ‘I’m here because I’m a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness.’ Sister Antona passed away on November 11 last year at the age of 93. She remained a bold and dedicated champion of civil rights throughout her lifetime, and her witness should inspire our own.

We pray in confidence that Jesus Christ will remind us all that he is the most powerful means to break the chains of hate that still bind too many hearts, a truth which lies at the center of Dr. King’s legacy.”

USCCB racism resources and information about the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/racism/  •

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Emphasize Human Beings Are All Made in the Likeness of God

The following statement has been issued by James Rogers, Chief Communications Officer for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), emphasizing the USCCB position that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore deserving of our respect and compassion.

Full statement follows:

“Reports of recent disparaging remarks about African countries and Haiti have aroused great concern. As our brothers and sisters from these countries are primarily people of color, these alleged remarks are especially disturbing. All human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and comments that denigrate nations and peoples violate that fundamental truth and cause real pain to our neighbors. It is regrettable that this comes on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and could distract from the urgent bipartisan effort to help Dreamers and those with Temporary Protected Status. As a vigorous debate continues over the future of immigration, we must always be sure to avoid language that can dehumanize our brothers and sisters.”  •

From the Pope: Why Attend Mass on Sunday?

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Resuming the journey of our catechesis on Mass, today we ask ourselves: why attend Mass on Sunday?

The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is at the center of the life of the Church (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2177). We Christians go to Mass on Sundays to meet the Risen Lord, or rather to let ourselves be met by Him, to listen to His word, be nourished at His table, and thus become Church, or rather His mystical living Body in the world today.

From the first hour the disciples of Jesus understood him; they celebrated the Eucharistic encounter with the Lord on the day of the week that the Jews called “the first of the week” and the Romans “day of the sun,” because on that day Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to the disciples, talking to them, eating with them, giving them the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 28: 1, Mk 16: 9-14, Lk 24: 1-13, Jn 20: 1-19). The great outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost also took place on Sunday, the fiftieth day after the resurrection of Jesus. For these reasons, Sunday is a holy day for us, sanctified by the Eucharistic celebration, the living presence of the Lord among us and for us. It is the Mass, therefore, that makes Christian Sunday! What kind of Sunday, for a Christian, is one in which there is no meeting with the Lord?

There are Christian communities that, unfortunately, can not enjoy Mass every Sunday; however, on this holy day, they are called to gather in prayer in the name of the Lord, listening to the Word of God and keeping alive the desire of the Eucharist.
Some secular societies have lost the Christian meaning of Sunday illuminated by the Eucharist. This is a shame! In these contexts it is necessary to revive this awareness, in order to recover the meaning of the celebration, the meaning of joy, of the parish community, of solidarity, of rest that restores the soul and the body (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2777-2188). The Eucharist is the teacher of all these values, Sunday after Sunday. This is why Vatican Council II wanted to reiterate that “the Lord’s day is the original feast day, and it should be proposed to the piety of the faithful and taught to them so that it may become in fact a day of joy and of freedom from work” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 106).

Abstention from work on a Sunday did not exist in the first centuries: it is a specific contribution of Christianity. By biblical tradition, the Jews rest on Saturday, while in Roman society there was no weekly day of abstention from servile labor. It was the Christian sense of living as sons and not slaves, animated by the Eucharist, that made Sunday – almost universally – the day of rest.

Without Christ we are condemned to be dominated by the fatigue of everyday life, with its worries, and by the fear of tomorrow. The Sunday meeting with the Lord gives us the strength to live today with trust and courage and to move forward with hope. This is why we Christians go to encounter the Lord on Sunday, in the Eucharistic celebration.

The Eucharistic communion with Jesus, Risen and Living in eternity, is a foretaste of Sunday without sunset, when there will be no more effort, nor will there be pain, nor grief, nor tears, but only the joy of living fully and forever with the Lord. The Sunday Mass also speaks to us of this blessed repose, teaching us, as the week flows, to entrust ourselves to the hands of the Father Who is in heaven.

What can we answer to those who say that there is no need to go to Mass, not even on a Sunday, why is it important to live well, to love others? It is true that the quality of Christian life is measured by the capacity to love, as Jesus said: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn 13:35); but how can we practice the Gospel without drawing the necessary energy to do so, one Sunday after another, from the inexhaustible source of the Eucharist? We do not go to Mass to give something to God, but to receive from Him what we really need. This is recalled by Church’s prayer, which thus addresses God: “You have no need of our praise, yet our thanksgiving itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness, but profit us for salvation” (Roman Missal, Common Preface IV).

In conclusion, why go to Mass on Sundays? It is not enough to answer that it is a precept of the Church; this helps to preserve its value, but it is not enough alone. We Christians need to participate in Sunday Mass because only with the grace of Jesus, with His living presence in us and among us, can we put into practice His commandment, and thus be His credible witnesses.