Category Archives: National News

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.

President Should Work with Congress Toward Acceptable Tax Bill, Says USCCB

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON – After the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate passed The Tax Reform and Jobs Act, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, drew attention to unacceptable problems that remain, and called on President Trump to insist that Congress fix them before he signs a bill into law.

The full statement follows:

“Today, Congress passed its tax reform legislation, The Tax Reform and Jobs Act, and it has been sent to the President to consider.  The legislation achieves some laudable things, like doubling the standard deduction, which will help many struggling families avoid tax liability, expanding the use of 529 education plans, and increasing the child tax credit.

However, the Act contains a number of problematic provisions that will have dramatic negative consequences, particularly for those most in need.  Among other things, the Joint Committee on Taxation indicates that the bill will eventually raise taxes on those with lower incomes while simultaneously cutting taxes for the wealthy.  This is clearly problematic, especially for the poor.  The repeal of the personal exemption will cause larger families, including many in the middle class, to be financially worse off.  The final bill creates a large deficit that, as early as next year, will be used as a basis to cut programs that help the poor and vulnerable toward stability.  The legislation is also likely to produce up to a $13 billion drop in annual charitable giving to nonprofits that are relied upon to help those struggling on the margins.  This will also significantly diminish the role of civil society in promoting the common good.

As the President considers the tax bill before him, we ask that he take into account the full consequences of its provisions and work with Congress to remedy them before signing a tax bill into law.”
Bishop Frank J. Dewane’s December 6, 2017, letter analyzing the Senate and House bills prior to reconciliation can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Tax-Conference-Letter-Congress-2017-12-06.pdf

Bishops Disappointed with U.S. Withdrawal from UN’s Development of Migration Compact

WASHINGTON – Archbishop Timothy Broglio and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, expressed disappointment after the Trump Administration announced that the U.S. government is withdrawing from the process of the United Nations (UN) to develop a Global Compact on Migration.

“Catholic social teaching on migration recognizes and respects the sovereignty of each nation, indeed each nation’s right and responsibility, to ultimately decide how it will regulate migration into its territory,” explained Bishop Vásquez. “The Church has long articulated that it is the obligation of nations to assure human rights for all migrants and special protections for vulnerable migrants, such as refugees, forced migrants, victims of human trafficking, and women and children at risk. Pope Francis has described such obligations as part of building ‘global solidarity’ on behalf of migrants and refugees. In fact, the bishops continue to promote the international campaign initiated by Pope Francis, Share the Journey, as a sign of solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

“With a growing global concern about protracted forced migration situations, the UN process provides an opportunity for the United States to help build international cooperation that respects such rights and protections on behalf of those seeking safety and security for their families. Participation in that process allows the U.S. to draw on our experience and influence the compact,” said Archbishop Broglio. “Therefore, the USCCB encourages the Administration to reconsider its decision to withdraw from this process.”

USCCB Urges Congress to Provide Funding For Climate Change

from the USCCB

WASHINGTON— In a letter to members of Congress, Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Bishop Oscar Cantú urge the United States to support international climate assistance during the year-end appropriations process. The bishops request that Congress dedicate $10 million to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the international body that guides climate policy.

The letter appeals to the responsibility to care for the common good and affirms that the “blessings of God’s creation and the duty to care for the common good overflow beyond our borders, especially when it comes to the air and climate shared with all peoples and creatures living on the planet.”

The UNFCCC facilitates international cooperation on climate change through initiatives such as the annual U.N. Climate Change Conference, which is currently taking place in Bonn, Germany. Two years ago, this conference resulted in the Paris Climate Agreement, from which the United States intends to withdraw. The U.S. bishops have expressed disappointment about the decision to not uphold this agreement that is based on unified global action against climate change.

“Restricting funding to the UNFCCC will only weaken the ability of the United States to dialogue in the international arena using a common language based on the best science available,” said Bishops Dewane and Cantú.

“By supporting the UNFCCC, the United States can direct attention and resources towards adaptation measures that help all people, especially the poor, adapt to the effects of climate change globally,” continued the bishops. “By doing so, our nation can better pursue the national interest, support credible climate research and promote the common good within and beyond our borders.”

Bishop Dewane of Venice, FL, is chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Bishop Cantú of Las Cruces is chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the USCCB.

The full text of the letter can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/upload/UNFCCC-letter-2017-11-10.pdf. •

President of USCCB Responds to Mass Shooting In Texas

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued the following statement in response to the mass shooting during a church service in Sutherland Springs, TX.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“Earlier today, we heard of the mass shooting at the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. With Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, I extend my prayers and the prayers of my brother bishops for the victims, the families, the first responders, our Baptist brothers and sisters, indeed the whole community of Sutherland Springs. We stand in unity with you in this time of terrible tragedy—as you stand on holy ground, ground marred today by horrific violence.

We ask the Lord for healing of those injured, His loving care of those who have died and the consolation of their families.

This incomprehensibly tragic event joins an ever-growing list of mass shootings, some of which were also at churches while people were worshipping and at prayer. We must come to the firm determination that there is a fundamental problem in our society. A Culture of Life cannot tolerate, and must prevent, senseless gun violence in all its forms. May the Lord, who Himself is Peace, send us His Spirit of charity and nonviolence to nurture His peace among us all.”

From the Pope: “The Mass is a Prayer” General Audience 11.15.17

from Vatican Information Services

To understand the beauty of the Eucharistic celebration I wish to begin with a very simple aspect: the Mass is prayer, or rather, it is the quintessential prayer, the highest, the most sublime, and at the same time the most “concrete.” It is the encounter of love with God through His Word and the Body and Blood of Jesus. It is an encounter with the Lord.

But first we must answer a question. What truly is prayer? It is first and foremost dialogue, a personal relationship with God. And man was created as a being in a personal relationship with God, who finds his full realization only in the encounter with his creator. The road of life is towards the definitive encounter with the Lord.

The Book of Genesis affirms that man was created in the image and semblance of God, Who is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, a perfect relation of love that is unity. From this we can understand that we were all created to enter into a perfect relationship of love, in a continuous giving and receiving so as thus to find the fullness of our being.

When Moses, before the burning bush, received God’s calling, he asked what His name was. And how did God answer? “I am Who I am” (Ex 3: 14). This expression, in its original sense, expresses presence and favor, and immediately after God adds, “The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”(v. 15). In this way Christ too, when he calls to his disciples, calls them to stay with him. This, therefore, is the greatest grace: to be able to experience the Mass, the Eucharist is the privileged moment for staying with Jesus and, through him, with God and our brothers.

Praying, like any true dialogue, also means knowing how to stay in silence. In dialogues there are moments of silence – in silence together with Jesus. And when we go to Mass, perhaps we arrive five minutes beforehand and begin to chat with the person next to us. But it is not the moment for chatter: it is the moment for silence, to prepare ourselves for the dialogue. It is the moment to collect ourselves in our heart to prepare for the dialogue with Jesus. Silence is so important. Remember what I said last week: we are not going to a show, we are going to an encounter with the Lord, and silence prepares us and accompanies us. Staying in silence together with Jesus. From the mysterious silence of God springs His Word, which resonates in our heart. Jesus himself teaches us that it is truly possible to “stay” with the Father and he demonstrates this with his prayer. The Gospels show us Jesus who withdraws to secluded places to pray; the disciples, seeing this intimate relation of his with the Father, feel the desire to be able to participate, and they ask him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11: 1). We heard this in the first reading, at the beginning of the audience. Jesus answers that the first thing necessary to pray is to be able to say “Father.” Beware: if I am not able to say “Father” to God, I am not capable of praying. We must learn to say, “Father,” that is, to place oneself in His presence with filial confidence. But to be able to learn, it is necessary to recognize humbly that we need to be instructed, and to say with simplicity: Lord, teach me to pray.

This is the first point: to be humble, to recognize ourselves as children, to repose in the Father, to trust in Him. To enter into the kingdom of heaven we must make ourselves small like children. In the sense that children know how to trust, they know that someone will take care of them, of what they will eat, of what they will wear and so on (cf Mt 6: 25-32). This is the first attitude: trust and confidence, like children towards their parents; knowing that God remembers you and takes care of you, you, me, everyone.

The second predisposition, again typical of children, is to allow oneself to be surprised. The child always asks a thousand questions because he wants to discover the world; and he wonders even at little things, because everything is new to him. To enter into the Kingdom of Heaven we must allow ourselves to be astonished. In our relationship with the Lord, in prayer – I ask – do we allow ourselves to be astonished, or do we think that prayer is talking to God like parrots? No, it is trusting and opening the heart to wonder. Do we let ourselves be surprised by God, who is always the God of surprises? Because the encounter with the Lord is always a living encounter, not a museum visit. It is a living encounter, and we go to Mass, not to a museum. Let us go to a living encounter with the Lord.

The Gospel speaks of a certain Nicodemus (Jn 3: 1-21), an elderly man, an authority in Israel, who goes to Jesus to meet him; and the Lord speaks to him about the need to be “born again” (cf. v. 3). But what does this mean? Can one be “reborn?” To return to having the taste, the joy, the wonder of life, is it possible, even when faced with so many tragedies? This is a fundamental question of our faith, and this is the desire of every true believer: the desire to be reborn, the joy of starting over. Do we have this desire? Does each one of us have the wish to be reborn always, to encounter the Lord? Do you have this desire? Indeed, it can easily be lost because, as a result of many activities, of many projects to be put into practice, little time is left over and we lose sight of what is fundamental: our life of the heart, our spiritual life, our life that is the encounter with the Lord in prayer.

In truth, the Lord surprises us by showing us that He loves us even in our weaknesses. “Jesus Christ … is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn 2: 2). This gift, a source of true consolation – but the Lord forgives us always – this is a true consolation, it is a gift that is given to us through the Eucharist, that nuptial banquet in which the spouse encounters our fragility. Can I say that when I take communion in the Mass, the Lord encounters my fragility? Yes! We can say this because it is true! The Lord encounters our fragility to restore us to our first calling: that of being the image and semblance of God. This is the environment of the Eucharist, this is prayer.

From the Pope: “Vigilant Expectation” General Audience 10.11.17

from Vatican Information Services

Today I would like to focus on that dimension of hope that is vigilant expectation. The theme of vigilance is recurrent in the New Testament. Jesus preaches to his disciples, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12: 35-36).

In this time that follows the resurrection of Jesus, in which serene and distressing moments alternate continually, Christians never give up. The gospel recommends being like servants who never go to sleep until their master has returned. This world demands our responsibility, and we assume all of it, and with love. Jesus wants our existence to be laborious, for us never to let down our guard, to welcome with gratitude and wonder every new day given to us by God. Every morning is a clean page on which the Christian begins to write with good works. We are already saved by Jesus’ redemption, but now we await the full manifestation of his lordship: when finally God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15: 28). Nothing is more certain, in the faith of Christians, than this “appointment,” this appointment with the Lord, when He will come. And when this day arrives, we Christians will want to be like those servants who have spent the night dressed for action and with their lamps burning: we need to be ready for salvation when it arrives, ready for the encounter. Have you thought about how this encounter with Jesus will be, when he comes? But, it will be an embrace, an enormous joy, a great joy! We must live in expectation of this encounter!

The Christian is not made for boredom, but rather for patience. He or she knows that even in the monotony of certain days that are always the same, the mystery of grace is hidden. There are people who with the perseverance of their love become like wells that irrigate the desert. Nothing happens in vain, and no situation in which a Christian finds himself immersed is entirely refractory to love. No night is so long that it makes us forget the joy of the dawn. And the darker the night is, the closer we are to the dawn. If we remain united to Jesus, the cold or difficult moments do not paralyze us; and if even the whole world were to preach against hope, if it said that the future will bring only dark clouds, the Christian knows that in that same future there is the return of Christ. When this will happen, no-one knows, but the thought that at the end of our history there is the merciful Jesus is enough to have confidence and not to curse life. Everything will be saved. Everything. We will suffer, there will be moments that cause anger and indignation, but the gentle and potent memory of Christ will eliminate the temptation to think that this life is a mistake.

After knowing Christ, we cannot do other than scrutinize history with trust and hope. Jesus is like a house, and we are inside, and from the windows of this house we look upon the world. Therefore, let us not be wrapped up in ourselves, let us not regret with melancholy a past that we assume to be golden, but let us always look ahead, to a future that is not only the work of our own hands, but first of all a constant concern of God’s providence. Everything that is opaque will one day become light.

And let us think that God does not contradict Himself. Never. God never disappoints. His will with regard to us is not nebulous, but rather a well-defined project of salvation. “God the Savior … desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm 2: 4). Therefore, let us not abandon ourselves to the flow of events with pessimism, as if history were a runaway train. Resignation is not a Christian virtue. Just as it is not for Christians to shrug their shoulders or hang their head in the face of a destiny that appears ineluctable.

Those who give hope to the world are never submissive. Jesus tells us to wait for him without standing idly: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes” (Lk 12: 37). There is no builder of peace who in the final analysis has not compromised his personal peace, taking on the problems of others. The submissive person is not a builder of peace, but lazy, one who wants to be comfortable. Whereas the Christian is a builder of peace when he risks, when he has the courage to risk to bring good, the good that Jesus gave to us, that he gave to us like a treasure.
Every day of our life, let us repeat that invocation that the first disciples, in their Aramaic language, expressed with the words Marana tha, and which we find in the last verse of the Bible: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22: 20).