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The Evangelist
Friday, May 27, 2022

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  • God’s presence in the present
    The reader might be tempted to pay a backhanded compliment for this title by noting that I have a remarkable grasp of the obvious.
  • The inclusiveness of love
    Because Jesus wishes each of us to have his heart and mind and if we are not there yet, he still wants us to try so that we do not give up on ourselves or others. 
  • If you’re looking to be heard …
    Recently, at a Legatus meeting of local business and professional people, a guest speaker by the name of Dan Celucci (Catholic Leadership Institute or CLI) made an excellent presentation. 
  • Just don’t call me late ... for Mass
    Mornings may not be the wokest time of day for aging teens. Growing up is hard to do and the fallout from dealing all day with raging hormones and the strains of peer pressure in school can leave one exhausted at the end of the week. Just don’t wake me on Sunday — of all mornings!
  • Do you want to be my disciple?
    It’s an amazing thing. Jesus getting down on his hands and knees, begging to wash the feet of his disciples, the night before he died.
  • ‘Come out of the darkness:’ the challenge of the Resurrection
    The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is nothing less than explosive and, to use natural imagery, comparable to the discovery of fission, the splitting of the atom. 
  • Hang on to the Cross
    Ever dared to shake your fist at heaven? Honest enough to admit you have ever gotten mad at God? Or maybe just had a few questions you would like to take up when you and God are alone together sometime? In a safe place, of course, when your arms are long enough to still have control of God and to keep God at a certain distance …
  • Jesus is our safe space
    To be true to its mission as a place where salvation happens, the Church must be, first and foremost, a safe space, where our weakest and most vulnerable can find peace and the assurance that they will be protected, nourished and healed.
  • Confirming doubts
    We’ve celebrated Easter Sunday, the observance of the Lord’s Resurrection, as early as March 22. No earlier date is permitted since, ecclesiastically, the vernal equinox is fixed on March 21. Cycles are part of the rhythm of life. Jesus himself observed them. 
  • Raising expectations
    Sometimes rumors are true. The adage has it that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. We certainly can use a lift after the trials and tribulations we have been going through and the state of a world teetering on the brink of endless war. 
  • Who is ‘The Church?’ Reflections on synodality
    I’ll admit it! Talk about “we are the Church” may sound more than a little hypocritical when used by certain hierarchs and theologians, almost as if to deflect accountability for less than stellar leadership and counsel.
  • Seeing Jesus
    To hear saintly people bearing witness to “seeing Jesus” in others had always intrigued me.
  • A Lent like none other
    That’s an expression many of us have heard and lived in recent years. Who can forget the great lockdowns of spring 2020, when most of us had to spend the better part of Lent and even the Easter season huddled at home
  • The Beatitude of personal presence
    Regarding the Beatitudes G.K. Chesterton once said, “On first reading it doesn’t make sense, on second reading nothing else makes sense!” 
  • To tell the truth
    “You can’t handle the truth!” If you’ve seen the movie, “A Few Good Men” (1992), you may recall those explosive words by which the self-important Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) attempts on the witness stand to dismiss the brash Navy prosecutor Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise).
  • The Catholic School Advantage
    How often I have quoted words of wisdom and experience from our renowned Superintendent of Schools, Giovanni Virgiglio. 
  • Enough already?
    “You don’t know; you’re learning.” My paternal grandpa would say, while cutting my hair as a youngster. He had a way of trimming my ego as well.
  • Living, or partly living?
    Throughout the play, “Murder in the Cathedral,” the women of Canterbury, bearing critical, often emotionally wrenching witness to the looming tragedy they feel forced to bear and declare, repeat a portentous motif about how people are “living and partly living.”
  • Renewing the face of the earth
    Most all of us want a world where there is clean water, abundant and accessible, wholesome food and shelter that is safe and secure. For everyone.
  • A pandemic we can do something about
    Mother Teresa of Calcutta believed that loneliness, often accompanied by despair and hopelessness, was the virulent affliction in the West. Yes, she thought of loneliness as a virus.
  • Jesus in our midst
    Patience and watchful waiting are an essential component of our growing in faith and trust in God. Not just in Advent, of course, but that’s one good reason for an Advent before Christmas.
  • The face of God
    Christmas becomes a time to allow Jesus to be born again in our hearts, to re-present him to the world in and through us.
  • Advent giving
    Listening to one soul in need may be the greatest gift one can bring to another.
  • No denying reality
    There is something about being hit with very personal, biological red flags that cannot be mine alone to manage, delegate, tweak or outsource. “This is your life” (or death) suddenly hit home: YOU’VE GOT CANCER!
    Bishop's column: Every human being likes to be thanked. Sometimes we even deserve it. God loves being thanked, too — and ALWAYS deserves it. Why is this so?
  • Our young people want to know Jesus now
    “Jesus must have been a very happy man to be around. He was always attracting children. And children don’t follow a cranky person.”
  • Giving thanks is a way to evangelize
    Gratitude is the most personal, powerful and perfect prayer; in fact, the word “prayer” in this sentence is almost superfluous.
  • Taking God seriously
    Matthew Kelly calls it “The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity” — which is also the title of his book on the subject. He subtitles it with an appeal to our all-too-common experience: “How Modern Culture is Robbing Billions of People of Happiness.”
  • A chance to grow
    “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it.” This adage, attributed to Einstein, but probably a paraphrase of similar remarks made by many others, may serve as a reminder to us all as we begin our journey toward the XVI Ordinary Genera Assembly of Bishops in October 2023 (Vatican City).
  • To rise up, go deep
    The way up is down deep, into the rich humanity of the poorest of the poor.
  • Hope of the Poor
    My heart is full of joy and gratitude to God for a mission in the slums of Mexico City.
  • Dig into Jesus!
    The problem, Jesus suggests, is not that we ask for too much, but rather too little.
  • Reality therapy
    We have witnessed an escalation of violence on so many levels in our lives. Violence always claims innocent lives. It is an expression of disorder within the human soul that explodes into disorder in the community
  • The God factor
    Keep Him in your heart always and you will possess true love.
  • A work in progress
    Bishop Ed looks into our parishes, our mission and how to form deeper bonds of spiritual reunion.
  • “Good” Days and “Bad” Days?
    The sun is always there even if the clouds at times suggest otherwise.
  • The world seen through faith
    Faith is certainly a way of seeing.
  • It’s just us
    In a world where we have experienced so much polarization of “us” versus “them” on so many levels, this was a celebration of our common humanity.
  • Coming clean
    For those who have been wounded by or within the Church, I can only say, blame us — blame me! — but do not blame God. 
  • The blessing and promise of family
    The prime goal of any friendship, any truly loving relationship, is to lead the beloved to God.
  • The Mass unites us
    It would be premature to form conclusions on how the motu proprio issued just a few days ago (Traditionis Custodes, July 16) will be received and implemented. For my part, as a diocesan bishop, always loyal to the Holy See, and now charged with the task of implementation, I also want to accompany my people so that together we may maintain the unity that our Eucharistic faith ensures.
  • Just do it
    Most of us, I suspect, have little idea of the good we do and can do — if that is really what we want to do.
  • Sanctuary
    There is a connection between sanctuary and sanctity.
  • Whatever became of sin?
    Lest I be accused of plagiarism, I must be bold to say that I do not own this title. I certainly own sin — my personal sins — as a step toward my salvation.
  • To mitigate speculation about the draft of a Eucharist proposal by the USCCB, I will tell you what the vote was about and how I voted.
  • The long haul
    If you are married — still married after some, maybe many years — do you remember your wedding day? Was it the highpoint of your married life so far, or only the beginning?
  • Corpus Christi and Catholic identity
    Corpus Christi — or the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ — evokes memories of great joy and pride in Catholic identity for those of us, particularly Americans blessed with strong ethnic traditions. 
  • Re-membering
    At Mass, we remember and re-member, recalling who we are and why we are, to become more ourselves.
  • Sacramental healing
    As one sad narrative unfolds, with rash shootings shattering recovering cityscapes, other kinds of lockdown loom, more stifling than those which pandemic fears fueled.
  • One God, one people
    Though we may pride our nation for its foundational principles of equality among all human beings and a mutual respect for and among all persons so implied — at least in theory — practice and experience show this challenging to achieve.
  • Scales of vision
    Seeing is believing, it is said. We tend naturally to trust and value more what we can perceive personally with our own five senses. Rather than rely on someone else’s perception, on mere hearsay, we want to be the judge of what is or is not real.
  • Family healing
    May is the month of Mary. Mary is the Mother of God — of Jesus, the Church and our Mother. This intimate, family mystery of God’s presence in the heart of Mary flows from the total adherence of our Mother to the loving will of God.
  • And lead us not into … WHAT?
    “And lead us not into temptation ...” This vexing phrase from the Lord’s Prayer — the “Our Father” — is, for many, something of a stumbling block.
  • Trust
    Those Jerusalem Christians in early Acts, what was it that was so vibrant and attractive about them? 
  • Divine Mercy evangelizes the heart
    If someone were to ask me, what is the Divine Mercy all about, I would start by saying it is all about evangelization — or, as I like to call, “gospel-ing.” It’s about spreading the Good News effectively.
  • It has to be love
    In Judaism, I am told, there is an adage: death ends a life, but it doesn’t end a relationship.
  • Mercy killings
    Every parent knows the anguish of watching a child suffer, feeling helpless except to hope in and pray to God, and the people offering care and assistance.
  • Practicing heaven
    The United States Conference of Catholics Bishops (USCCB) is calling for a Eucharistic Revival.
  • Fear less, love more
    One of my fondest memories was the celebration of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.
  • For the love of sisters
    Talk to any Catholic. Everyone has a sister story, often profoundly affecting their life. 
  • Reaching across the aisle
    “Why can’t we all just get along?” Who has not asked this seemingly simple question when fed up with all the violence, hate and chaos that the world fulminates with if one only relies on the bad news served by most media most of the time
  • The dogginess of God
    I had been well warned. Yes. About the new dog. For weeks before my visit to my good friends in Florida, I had been sent enchanting photos of the progress of Duke, an uncommonly precocious, but very German Shepherd.
  • Surprised by Lent
    Didn’t we just do Lent? If you were thinking this as we approach the pause in “Ordinary Time” with Ash Wednesday next week, Feb. 17, you are not alone.
  • You are the evangelist!
    Am I good news or bad news? To be or not to be the Good News. That is the question! A question I have to ask myself every day. It’s an identity thing
  • Touched by love
    Last week I had the pleasure of leading a group of Navy chaplains in their annual retreat. I also shared with you, in last week’s column, some reflections on memories from my father’s life. 
  • ‘I pray’
    What does a father do all day long? Especially when he can no longer walk, or talk, or even take care of his own bodily needs.
  • Finding our heart in His
    Survivor friends of mine who have sought counseling over the years in their lifelong journey of recovery and healing from clergy abuse tell of how some therapists resist their attempts to grow spiritually on their own faith terms.
  • Questions from God
    Isn’t it strange? In a world where instant communication is possible for virtually (pun intended) anyone with a device, we are becoming less certain that anything we see is true. If we ask a question will we get a straight answer?
  • Christmas through the eyes of children
    Christmas, in the eyes of a child, is totally serious. That’s exactly why Christmas is an invitation to have fun.
  • The loneliness of God
    Attributing human emotions to God — such as rage, jealousy or loneliness — is always metaphorical. The scriptures are rife with anthropomorphic devices depicting both God’s kindness and anger. Poets often take great license with this. 
  • Coming to our senses
    I have in mind the classic 1951 movie version of the novelette, with Alistair Sim as Scrooge. Many of us will no doubt remember and revisit this version as the Christmas season approaches.
  • The shunning of God
    Thanksgiving, and “the Holidays” in general, are going to be quite a challenge to manage in this year of a “Great Pandemic,” already set to eclipse in impact and importance any eventual “Person of the Year” that Time may designate, if not the virus itself. COVID-19 looms over “the Holidays” as a lightning rod, threatening to sop up all the energy traditionally devoted at this time to the festivities of eating, drinking, decorating and merrymaking with friends and family.
  • Who is worthy?
    Who is worthy of Jesus Christ? Who is worthy to receive him in Holy Communion?
  • Always with us
    In these Covid times, plans and projects are being upended, or at least postponed. So many of us are in a bit of process overload so “deadlines” have to be extended.
  • Playing politics
    Throughout his life Jesus was embroiled in political controversy. No sooner was he born when Herod, a routine menace of a petty local tyrant, wanted him eliminated as a threat to his authority, based on prophetic messages he had received from his experts and the visit of the Magi. 
  • Accompanying our priests
    I can only imagine — though I prefer not to — how dispiriting it must be to many of the faithful to read about the scandalous behavior of some priest whom they have known and loved.
  • The violence at home
    Domestic violence has long been a festering wound in the fabric of our society. All the more scandalous, it infects the Body of Christ!
  • The power of the Rosary
    On October 7, we celebrate the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary. This title attributed to Mary has been traced to an apparition held by pious tradition to have occurred to St. Dominic in 1214. In the 16th century, Pope Pius V placed the feast of Our Lady of Victory on October 7 in the General Roman Calendar, associating it with the Rosary, for which we honor Mary today.
  • I used to think ...
    One of the greatest anxieties of aging folk is the thought that maybe something I was doing or something I thought was right was really all wrong. 
  • A time to reach out
    It may seem counterintuitive to suggest that now is a time for reaching out. Just when it seems that the COVID-19 threat is diminishing somewhat, at least in New York State, why take chances?
  • Calling sinners in
    “Wait till your father (mother) comes home…” It’s an age-old parental “cop-out.” Tell the kids to stop it, of course. But then wait for the “cop” to arrive and enforce the law.
  • Which Jesus?
    Peter had just hit a grand slam. Jumping right up to the plate when Jesus asked his team to give their best shot on what they thought of him, who he really was, in spite of the local gossip, Peter made his famous declaration that Jesus was “the Messiah, the son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). 
  • The real deal
    What ails you? I thought I would get right to the point. Something is probably bothering you, isn’t it? Please forgive me for being so bold, but don’t you get tired of how typical greetings begin: “How are you?” “I’m fine.” It’s sad to have to begin a conversation with a lie. What if you were really able to tell the truth? “How are you?” “I am not so well, and this is what is really on my mind ...”
  • Prayer isn’t everything
    “Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, and the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops, and your religious act like religious.”
  • The sense of our faith
    Lies! No one likes being lied to — except if it is to confirm one’s own chosen self-deception.
  • The other side
    Years ago, probably decades by now, I remember reading a story of how an old bottle was found, washed up on a beach somewhere, containing the proverbial message from “the other side.”
  • Dialogue or tyranny
    Journalists and chronologists seem to take a special pride in characterizing and pronouncing judgment on the Zeitgeist or spirit of different historical periods. Terms like the “Dark Ages” or the “Age of Reason” are familiar, not to mention the “Gay Nineties” and the “Roaring Twenties,” which today would carry very different connotations. 
  • God friends us
    Bad news, sad news, fake news … it’s all old news! And it’s been around for centuries. So many of the battles we are fighting now have been going on throughout the sordid history of a humanity repeating the sins of our ancestors.
  • Essential role of Church for a free society
    If you follow my thoughts regularly, you will have noticed that I rarely mention the names of partisan political figures. I do not and will not tell anyone for whom to vote.
  • Things that are true
    As I have just completed six years as Bishop of Albany (April 10) and near the 47th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood (July 2), I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude for the blessings in my life, the people God has sent his Holy Spirit into, “to teach and remind” me, which is what the Spirit does for all of us (Jn 14: 26), if we open our hearts in faith and trust.
  • Keep telling the good news
    The title of this article may seem to beg the question: is there any good news to tell. Or, if there is good news, why is it so hard to find. Neither question is really relevant to the existence of good news. If it is there — and it most certainly is — then its existence cannot be denied just because it is not being told or because someone is not hearing it. 
  • United in prayer
    Throughout our beautiful state, people of faith are uniting this week in prayer. Chastened and humbled by graphic reminders of our spiritual, social and physical vulnerabilities and the evil of which human beings are capable, the best in us and among us — dare I suggest, the life that God has breathed into us — is alive as we come together to praise and give thanks to the God of life. 
  • “We got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.” No, this is not a prophecy or a warning from the CDC. No one, but no one, can predict the future. Jesus himself, when questioned about the last days, or even his own personal destiny, refused to reveal what only the heavenly Father knew. His whole life was only of complete trust in the will of God.
  • The holy coach
    This week we commemorate the Ascension, when the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus cease so that he may become more immediately present to all who wish to receive him into their hearts. He has prepared his disciples by promising them another “advocate” — he is the first — which they will learn is the Holy Spirit.
  • For God, no one is non-essential
    “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” wrote poet Robert Frost of non-essential boundaries that neighbors maintain to reassure themselves of the lines that keep them safe from one another. His poem, “Mending Wall,” is a reflection on a springtime ritual whose meaning and utility he begs to question even as he admits that winter rituals — hunters’ romps for one — have left gaps.
  • Mary’s month — our month
    She does everything for her family. The sacrifice a mother will make for her child knows no bounds. 
  • Love finds a way
    Could it be that the more we feel separated from God, the closer God is drawing to us?
  • To tell the truth
    Just when things are going well, catastrophe strikes, and suddenly everything seems to collapse. Conversely, when our world seems to be falling apart, it may only be beginning. To tell the truth, things are not always as they first seem.
  • An Easter story
    The Holy Spirit is on a roll! An out-of-state friend of mine — a tuition-paying parent whose three children attend Catholic schools — texted me that his young daughter is “having a meeting with her classmates in our living room.” This sentence struck me because it’s packed.
  • God never gives up on us
    Like never before, the whole world is united, at war with a common enemy. 
  • Comfort food, spiritual and physical
    Yes, this is serious. Yes, it is deadly for some. No, we should not go out and about as usual, and congregate in groups of more than 10. Follow all the state (and, mostly, common sense) imposed regulations. Etc. Etc.
    With those struggling with coronavirus fears, Bishop Scharfenberger offers reassurance that ‘God is with us.’
  • Loving our families through pain
    Are you afraid? Maybe not for yourself, but with so much uncertainty in the world today — even about what is real and not real — how can we keep our families safe without terrifying them? With the specter of Covid-19 — the dreaded Coronavirus — said to be all around us, as much harm, potentially, could come from panic in the face of fear than from the ravishes of the disease itself.
  • Walking Lent together
    Suffering can be a lonely journey. Nothing can isolate us more than illness or disability. Even surrounded by well-intentioned caregivers, the patient or anyone being “treated” can feel more like an object poked and prodded. Worst of all is the sense of confinement, whether due to being bound to a bed, a chair or a tube, or just waiting for an authority to tell you that you can be “discharged” or, even less personally, to sign a “release.”
  • A passion for holiness
    Something I have only recently become more aware of is how our sacramental rituals contain numerous prayers and litanies for deliverance from sin and the evil influences. 
  • Speaking of God
    When Jesus says something, you can take it to the bank! Of course, you understand, that’s a metaphor, a figure of speech that is not to be taken literally, but is meant to communicate something true. In this case, the image is quite close to the reality.
  • Real life is sacramental
    Have you ever noticed that every Sacrament involves a touch? One of the signs that a person is even alive is the ability to feel something — to respond to an aural or visual stimulus, for example. 
  • The poverty of wealth
    There is too much truth, goodness and beauty in the world to ignore it. But every day we do. Why? Obviously, no one wants to be miserable. No one wants to see ugliness, sin and decay. It is uncomfortable to look at and brings us much pain and grief, even as we want to extend our compassion to those who are suffering. The word compassion itself conveys the beauty of how pain, shared personally among companions, somehow eases the burden on everyone. 
  • To God, Who gives joy to my youth
    Among my happiest memories are grammar school years in Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal parish in Ridgewood (Queens). Church, school, home and play — the people they included — were somehow all related. TV (black and white) and music (45 rpms), picnics and sports were all in the mix, but not allowed to supplant Mass or family meals. 
  • Do not be afraid to answer
    One of the first casualties that beset Adam and Eve after the fall was their fear of being summoned by God’s voice.
  • Every day a new year
    “Just” is one of the most damning words.
  • The Light that dawns in the dark
    The mad rush to Christmas is over. Time to give yourself permission to forget the cards never sent, the present to be exchanged, the unreturned text, the engagement that did not happen. If only for a day. All will be well. It’s okay to relax and rejoice. But why should it be just for a day?
  • Why can’t every day be Christmas?
    While the historical question about the actual birthdate of Christ remains unresolved, some have been intrigued by the coincidence (or perhaps not?) of that date with the arrival of the winter solstice, the time when sunlight begins to increase perceptibly.
  • The family down the block
    My family just got bigger. A call from the Papal Nuncio a few weeks ago confirmed that Pope Francis has sent me to help our family down the block in Buffalo until the Holy See appoints a successor to Bishop Richard Malone, who stepped down on Dec. 4.
  • The child in all of us
    Confirmations inspire me. That’s what they are supposed to do, of course, for all who attend: candidates, congregation and celebrants. After all, they are all about the coming of the Holy Spirit — God’s Advent — into our lives and all of the gifts God is just longing to pour into our hearts. 
  • Four steps to finding the treasure of Advent
    Finding the treasure of Advent is the key to getting into the Christmas spirit. With Advent starting this Sunday, claiming the time to accept its graces will deepen both the joy and peace Christmas promises.
    Bishop Scharfenberger takes you inside his 'ad limina' meeting with the Holy See.
  • Resisting evil
    Have you noticed it’s not a perfect world yet? Does the prevalence of so much that is not right stir you to want to do something about it, or have you found yourself just getting tired or even depressed, wondering if anything can be done?
  • Divining the occult
    Halloween has had its run. Best to let go. Yet ghouls and goblins — ghosts from the past? — may still haunt the memories of those spooked by ugly graphic images, whether invoked, imposed or imagined. But remember, if beauty, as is often said, is only skin deep, so also is ugliness as much in the eyes of the beholder.
  • God or garbage: The things we put God through
    Are you ready for grace, for God’s favors? Are you prepared to grow spiritually, for your heart to be stretched? 
  • Home mission
    Mom was right. Charity begins at home. Such sound advice that we grew up with is something that can continue to inspire and motivate us as we seek practical ways to raise our children well in the light of our Gospel mission
  • Impelled to be missionaries
    Did you know that St. Térèse de Lisieux — the Little Flower — dreamed of being a missionary? She had the true evangelical spirit: the love-drive. It was love that impelled her
  • Chaos of me
    Habits can make life easier. They can also drive us crazy. A good habit, freely chosen, can become a virtue, as when one decides to develop an attitude of gratitude — to God and others — and practices it to the point of it becoming a mark of one’s identity: that is, a grateful person, or a kind or a gentle or a compassionate one, as the case may be. Good habits free us to be who we are called by grace to be.
  • What will next year be like: Too early to pray?
    My basil plants have not yet gone to bud. Not a snowflake in sight. And first frost is still well beyond the meteorological horizon. It’s the 24th week in Ordinary Time and, though September is half over, I like to think of this as the 7th week of August with some summery days still ahead of us.
  • Searching for a spiritual home
    No generation perhaps has been more unkindly stereotyped than the so-called millennials, the “Gen Y” demographic cohort — born roughly between the early 1980s and just after the year 2000 — that writers, researchers and certain self-appointed savants generically disparage as self-centered, lazy and entitled.