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The Evangelist
Thursday, April 9, 2020


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  • 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.
  • PASTORAL LETTER FROM THE BISHOP
    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.
  • MY MEETING WITH POPE FRANCIS
    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.
  • Justice restored
    The best intentions behind the Child Victims Act (CVA) are to offer survivors of child sexual abuse a chance to tell their story and a measure of justice long overdue. Hoping to find healing — and with great courage — many are called to come forward, but few will be chosen.  
  • Something you can try at home
    It is impossible to be grateful and unhappy at the same time! I hesitated to begin with this assertion because my purpose is not to make anyone angry. On the contrary, my hope and prayer is to bring at least a brief oasis of peace into an atmosphere that seems so full of confusion and anger these days. 
  • Fearless faith
    As a young priest in the Diocese of Brooklyn, I was told of a remarkable story of contemporary martyrdom, the kind to which many of us are called to today.
  • Our common mission
    Sin hurts. Our mission together as disciples of Jesus Christ is the salvation of every human person from our sins and doing that justice which brings mercy and healing to all wounded by sin.
  • It’s more than the chicken soup
    How do you please a guest? The Martha in me, and no doubt many of us, usually goes immediately to the tangible.  
  • Even “nones” are called by name
    The struggles and faith journey of Kateri Tekakwitha (pronounced ‘gaderi dega‘gwita) are quite relevant to the experience of many today, especially our young people.
  • Kateri: Our first “millennial” saint?
    Much as I eschew the assignment of labels by psycho-social theorists to entire swaths of people, the title “millennial” seems particularly appropriate as a way to approach an understanding of St. Kateri Tekakwitha's journey of faith.   
  • Holiness in the service of justice
    It is not enough just to DO good. We are called to BE good, to become the very righteousness of God (cf. 2 Cor 5:21)! 
  • Growing our gardens of faith
    Agricultural metaphors abound in the Bible. Among the parables of Jesus, farmers figure prominently. Mary Magdalene even mistook Jesus for the gardener as she wept at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday (Jn 28:15).
  • The wounded heart of Mercy
    Our faith is a friendship offered to us from the heart of God, who is the Holy Spirit. It comes from Love and for Love.
  • A time to choose
    Nothing is more central to our faith than Jesus — to believe God loves us in him — personally. 
  • God’s Spirit within us
    Sometimes I wonder how, in the face of the shame and scandal we face these days in our Church and the headwinds in so many aspects of our lives, any of us manage to maintain a deep sense of peace and confidence on our road ahead. 
  • The God factor
    The core truth of our Christian faith is, in fact, that God IS Love.
  • Let us walk together, saying never again
    It is with deep sorrow that I listened to the gripping stories of three survivors of sexual abuse today. What courage it must have taken for them to come forward and I am grateful to them and those assisting them in doing so.
    It is with deep sorrow that I listened to the gripping stories of three survivors of sexual abuse today. What courage it must have taken for them to come forward and I am grateful to them and those assisting them in doing so.  
    It is with deep sorrow that I listened to the gripping stories of three survivors of sexual abuse today. What courage it must have taken for them to come forward and I am grateful to them and those assisting them in doing so.  
  • The Church as wounded healer
    A recurrent Gospel narrative is how Jesus meets each of us exactly where we are. 
  • Survivors are wounded healers
    Last Wednesday, May 1, I participated in a ground-breaking dialogue between some U.S. bishops and survivors of sexual abuse. 
  • 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.  
  • Living in the reality of eternal love
    What if everything that I thought was wrong with the world suddenly was made right? 
  • The Way like none other
    Grammarians debate which phrase is correct: “like no other” or “like none other.” Normally, the former would be correct, if “the way” in the title of this article were referring to a thing, a path or a procedure. “None” is a contraction for “no one.” So “like none other” means “like no one other.” 
  • The Church is always to be reformed
    Ecclesia semper reformanda est — the Church is always to be reformed — is a much-appropriated, though not universally defined term familiar from Vatican II days.
  • The joy of being forgiven
    Everyone has a desire to be independent of feeling bound to please or placate some other person or agency, a need to be debt-free. 
  • Loving through times of suffering
    As we read every day about corruption within our religious institutions and brutal acts of violence against those seeking merely to worship God peacefully, we come to realize how difficult it is to love in such a sinful world. 
  • Where every traveler finds a home
    In last week’s column, I spoke of “spiritual networking” or friendships that can assist those who are facing difficult challenges or transitions in their lives. Nowhere do we see that more obviously these days than online. 
  • Spiritual Networking
    Networking is a word that was coined in the late 1960s.
  • Courage and concreteness
    What happened during, or will come out of, this meeting can hardly measure up to the enormity of the evil we must confront.
  • Open the doors of life to everyone
    Our mission as God’s people is to open the doors of life to everyone on life’s journey, especially the most vulnerable — physically, emotionally and spiritually.
  • Welcoming everyone to the table of life
    Anger and outrage over the recently enacted “Reproductive Health Act” (RHA) is no surprise for those who foresaw its damaging consequences. 
  • The world belongs to everyone
    This can’t be right. You feel it in your gut. States touting as “progress” legislation abolishing any protection for infants born alive during a late-term abortion. And now no physician need be present for any abortion. Isn’t that something Roe v. Wade (1973) was supposed to guarantee?  
  • I am proud to stand in support of our Catholic schools and our students who are growing every day in their faith and a love for learning in the very challenging world they live in.
  • Gratitude is the most personal, powerful and perfect prayer; in fact, the word “prayer” in this sentence is almost superfluous. For there is no way that gratitude cannot be a prayer — if taken to its logical goal: God. In that sense, whenever I give thanks, I give praise to God.
  • One thing you can be sure of. God is after you! Which means you have a calling, a vocation.  
  • 'To be humanized we must become divinized. What other faith or fancy lifts the
    human race up so highly, one person at a time?
    It is the humble reality of the child of Bethlehem, born as animals looked on...’
  • If there is any “golden age” of God’s presence in our lives, it is now or never!
  • Unlike the written word which, read, chewed and digested, commands the reader’s active, sometimes reactive engagement, graphic images enter our consciousness unfiltered: they leave their imprint in our mind, swallowed whole, before we can even decide whether it is good for them to be there
  • No one really likes crowds, but they seem hard to avoid this time of year. Yet, to make a good Advent, we have to find some time away from the crowd.
  • If there is one thing that unites us, it is the realization that all of us could fill at least one waking day with acts of thanksgiving.
  • The denigration and, one might even say, desecration of human sexuality that we have become so painfully aware of in our time has roots that go right back to the fall in the garden of Eden.
  • We are quickly approaching the end of the liturgical year. Sunday Scripture readings will be reminding us about being alert to God, especially in consideration of our preparedness for God’s coming — not if, but when.
  • It keeps coming back: the prodigal son and the son who is always at home...Martha and Mary...the Apostles fighting among themselves about who is the greatest. Different people, different settings, but the same issue: How can I earn God’s approval?

  • “Why isn’t God answering my prayers? Am I not praying right?” These are very serious questions and deserve honest answers.
  • Mother, model or mentor, there is something about Mary that has always evoked the highest of human aspirations. Her image is probably among the most artistically rendered throughout the course of Christian history, leading some to wonder whether Mary is even more important than Jesus to Christians.
  • “Mens sana in corpore sano” — “a sound mind in a sound body” — was the ancient Roman ideal of good health or, from that dualistic viewpoint, a life worth living.Christians have always embraced an even broader and deeper perspective on the value of every human life.

  • Writing as I am on the feast of the Archangels and as the month of October is upon us, I am thinking of the words of Pope Francis on “Ha-Satan” — the Great Accuser — who “prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls.” You may recognize this reference to the one of the so-called Leonine prayers, once said at the end of Mass.
  • How many times have we heard, "Jesus Christ suffered and died for us." How important it is to look at the cross and thank him for this. It is only right to thank someone who loved us so much that he gave up his very life.
  • “Welcome” is an appeal that most church communities seek to display in their signage and gestures to attract faithful and seeker alike. Yet, the brutal reality of the cross looms over our ecclesial life, forcing sobriety over any ephemeral glee.
  • Miracles happen daily. They do. Sometimes we see them, sometimes we don’t. Often, we do, but we downplay them — because they happen so often. Like Jesus, whose townspeople even dismissed him: “Oh, this is just Jesus. We know him because we know his parents.”
  • With God to trust in, each and every one of us is — unbreakable! We are called to live in God forever, and nothing can kill or destroy us if we trust in the one who punched a hole in the tomb that even he himself was wrapped up and thrown into. Death could not contain him; nor will it overpower us who believe.
  • The sins of fathers who abuse their families mock the love and holiness to which Christian faith calls us. Such lying lives give testimony not to the honor of God — and the person God loves — but to the idolatry of the sinful self and its own pursuits and pastimes.
  • No, it’s not quite Christmas yet, though it will be soon enough. The beginning of the school year is just around the corner; it won’t be long before the leaves start to turn, pumpkins are set a-grin and turkeys (or the Tofurkey) are getting dressed for the Thanksgiving table. Then you know what’s next....
  • You have certainly heard the age-old question, “What would Jesus do? (WWJD),” during some retreat you took, at a conference or in a guidebook or meditation you read on how to become a good disciple of Christ.

  • In case you haven’t yet noted the date and time of our Diocese-wide “Hearts Aflame” Eucharistic Congress on your busy calendar, it’s on Sat., Sept. 22, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., at the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville. The shrine is also known as the “Shrine of the North American Martyrs,” because it is where the first Jesuit martyrs shed their blood, proclaiming the name of Jesus. Now, here’s why you, your whole family and your friends should go.
  • Pastoral letter from Bishop addresses McCarrick’s abuse
    Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger has issued this letter to diocesan clergy in response to sexual abuse allegations made against now-former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington.
  • Don’t envy the Apostles! Does it ever seem that the Apostles were so much better off than us because they actually saw Jesus, heard him speak and had him in their physical presence?

  • Our faith is really so simple. Sure, there are traditions and rules, regulations and rituals that we follow because they are meant to keep us focused. Every human society and organization that, like the Church, has a history, has them.
  • Ever notice that we don’t live in a perfect world? Ever get disappointed and angry with other people — or even yourself — that we don’t quite live up to expectations? It just seems that nothing is ever quite enough. The more we have, the more we want. When we get what we want, then we want something else.

  • The New Testament Greek name for Church, “ekklesia,” means “those called forth, summoned for an assembly.” What’s in a name? In this one, at least, quite a lot!
  • Recidivism — the temptation to revert to proven-to-fail former ways — is perhaps the most common and dangerous threats to the spiritual life.
  • In this month of June, in which we honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we may naturally want to focus on the heart as the symbol and center of love.
  • A song that was quite popular some 50 years ago described how, “Step by step, I fell in love with you.” The first step was “a sweet hello;” the third was, “I took a chance;” and the fourth was “true romance.” It’s graduation time again, and time for the next step.

  • The Confessions of St. Augustine make for some interesting reading. His plea as a young man — “Lord, make me pure [sexually chaste], only not yet!” — is emblematic of his struggle to find his true path, to live an authentic life. How is God to answer such a prayer?
  • Happy Birthday! Last Sunday, we observed the solemnity of Pentecost, the day on which the Holy Spirit affirmed the apostolic foundation and the apostolic mission of the Church, which is to go out to world and make disciples of all.
  • Some good friends of mine have been struggling with their nine- and 11-year-olds, who do not yet grasp the point of Sunday Mass. “We know that already,” they protest.
  • Christians take the incarnation very seriously. Not just as something that happened to Jesus Christ — “the Word was made flesh” (Jn 1:14) — but as a reality that affects all of us profoundly even now: who we are and our eternal destiny. It is something that defines and shapes our humanity — every aspect of it, body, mind and soul.
  • The Holy Spirit has sometimes been described as the love between God the Father and the Son — a love so real and eternal that it is perpetually generated in that divine relationship as a person. It is this Holy Spirit that dwells in the hearts of the baptized and inspires the many gifts and callings that we receive every day, throughout our lives.
  • This week marks the 55th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations (April 22). We continue our prayer through­out the week. We also thank and honor the members of our presbyterate who are celebrating jubilees in this season.
  • “May the Force be with you!”
    No doubt, many of us remember that greeting from the “Star Wars” movies. It is one of many theological themes that run through that series.
    Belief in a supreme authority or some higher powers is almost universal, even if such forces are regarded as nothing more than an impersonal reality, which is still above our comprehension — or perhaps forever beyond it.

  • “Fear is useless; what is needed is trust” (Lk 8:50).
    With these words, Jesus dispelled the din of the mourners who assumed “the obvious:” that the life of a dead 12-year-old girl — the daughter of Jairus — was over and done with. Nothing more could be done.