Today on Perspectives, a look at Pope Francis’ visit to both the European Parliament and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
The man who designed the European Union flag, Arsène Heitz, was inspired by scripture and the image of Mary on the Miraculous Medal. While he never hid the fact that the flag he designed is “Our Lady’s flag”, the European Union itself has offered different explanations for the evocative design. The flag, and the EU explanation of it, highlights modern Europe’s relationship with its Christian roots. During his day long visit to the European Parliament and Council of Europe, Pope Francis focused heavily on the Christian values upon which the European community found common ground and founded a union meant to ensure peace on the continent.
Join us Wednesday, November 26 at 1:30 pm ET in English and 5:00 pm ET in French for a recap of Pope Francis’ visit to Strasbourg and his address to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. Watch online.
If there is anything that we learn from reading Scripture is that God calls people. Consistently, every story in the bible, involves a call: Abraham, Moses, Noah, Gideon, Jonah, Samuel, Ruth, Esther, Mary, Paul. Everyone gets called.
God may not ‘call’ us the way He called Moses or St. Paul, or the specific way that Jesus called his disciples, but the bottom line is that no matter what, God will not ask you to do something that you are not capable of doing.
God calls everyone to holiness. That means that all of us are created for Heaven. That’s our final destination. Our Vocation is the best way that each one of us, individually can respond to God’s call to holiness.
Catholics can consider the following vocations: single life, married life, religious life and ordained life. Each one is a special and unique way in which we can know, love and serve God and work towards holiness. God can call us to any job or career, based on the gifts we have, what we are good at doing and what we like to do, but the best way that we can become holy, which is what really matters in life, is by one of these four ways of relating to God and to those around us.
The Single Life
The single life is probably the most misunderstood vocation and the one that gets the least attention. Part of this is due to the fact that all of us are single at some point in our life and so being single feels like a transitional stage. But being single is different than living the ‘Single Life’. Living the Single Life doesn’t mean you’re waiting to get married or can’t find a girlfriend. It doesn’t mean you’re not sure if you want to be a priest or a sister or brother. The Single Life means that you are committed to a life that’s full of serving others and God, with lots of energy, because there is lots to do.
There is a lot of pressure in our culture to be married, but not everyone is called to be married, nor should everyone be married. Not everyone is called to be a parent and many people who don’t have a desire for marriage or parenting feel that this must mean that they are called to the religious or ordained life. But that may not be the case. If you feel that this is not where you want to be, maybe that is an indication that you are called to the Single Life.
People who live the Single Life have a different disposition towards others. If someone asks me whether I can help them, say on a Friday night, I have to check with my wife. I have to see what my kids are doing. Even people in the Ordained or Religious Lives have specific commitments to their religious communities and are accountable to their superior or their Bishop. But a single person can drop everything and go. They do not have the same family commitments that married people have. This can be a great gift to others. This is why people living the Single Life spend a lot of their time involved in volunteer activities in the Church and in the community.
We learn that in married life we best live out the love that God has for us, a love that is free, faithful, fruitful and total. But this type of Christ-like love is lived in every Vocation. People living the Single Life are able to live a direct reflection of this love in a very specific way with a freedom that is not found in the other three Vocations.
Ultimately it has to do with holiness (read Pope Francis‚ General Audience – Wednesday, November 19). As in all Vocations, if you are called to the Single Life, that means that this is the best way in which God is calling you, personally to respond to his call to holiness. This means that the Single Life is the best way for you to be holy. It is possible that for some, this may be a stage in life and it is possible that you do not choose the Single Life but rather, your circumstances determine that this is your state in life.
Still, even if it is not your first choice to be single, you can have a rich and fulfilling life, serving Christ and others. No matter how you end up there you will find that you are free to do this because you are single. Single people can give all of themselves to God without reserve or distractions.
Next week, let’s look at the Religious Life.
Photo credit: CNS photo/Sarah Webb, CatholicPhilly.com
The Vatican bank has repatriated twenty three million euros that were frozen for more than three years, by Italian authorities.
The Institute for Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank, announced the repatriation of the money in a statement released November 18. The funds were unblocked in 2011 but was not repatriated because “issues regarding customer due diligence remained unsolved.”
Since 2011 the Vatican has implemented new policies in line with the European Union’s anti-money laundering measures. Those policies were approved by the MONEYVAL committee of the council of Europe.
In 2010 the Vatican bank moved 23 million euro from its treasury funds into an Italian bank account. According to Italian financial authorities it was unclear where the money came from and to whom it belonged. Vatican officials maintained the lack of information was due to a clerical error. Italian financial police seized the money as part of an anti-money laundering operation.
The theme of the next synod on the family has been set and new document on family issues will be sent to bishops around the world before the end of the year.
The theme of the 2015 synod is “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world.” Four Cardinals will serve as synod presidents: Andre Vignt Trois of Paris, Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, Brazil and Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa.
The council agreed to send a the preparatory document for the next synod to bishops around the world along with “a series of points that may assist in its reception and analysis”
Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis addresses an international conference on nutrition and Catholic News Service talks to experts about the importance of children having both a mother and a father.
Early on November 20, 2014, Pope Francis traveled to the headquarters of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome and delivered the following address to the Second International Conference on Nutrition. Full text below:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased and honoured to speak here today, at this Second International Conference on Nutrition. I wish to thank you, Mr. President, for your warm greeting and the words of welcome. I cordially greet the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan, and the Director General of the FAO, Professor José Graziano da Silva, and I rejoice in their decision to convene this conference of representatives of States, international institutions, and organisations of civil society, the world of agriculture and the private sector, with the aim of studying together the forms of intervention necessary in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, as well as the changes that must be made to existing strategies. The overall unity of purpose and of action, and above all the spirit of brotherhood, can be decisive in finding appropriate solutions. The Church, as you know, seeks always to be attentive and watchful regarding the spiritual and material welfare of the people, especially those who are marginalised or excluded, to ensure their safety and dignity.
1. The fates of nations are intertwined, more than ever before; they are like the members of one family who depend upon each other. However, we live in a time in which the relations between nations are too often damaged by mutual suspicion, that at times turns into forms of military and economic aggression, undermining friendship between brothers and rejecting or discarding what is already excluded. He who lacks his daily bread or a decent job is well aware of this. This is a picture of today’s world, in which it is necessary to recognise the limits of approaches based on the sovereignty of each State, intended as absolute, and national interest, frequently conditioned by small power groups. Your working agenda for developing new standards and greater commitments to feed the world shows this well. From this perspective, I hope that, in the formulation of these commitments, the States are inspired by the conviction that the right to food can only be ensured if we care about the actual subject, that is, the person who suffers the effects of hunger and malnutrition.
Nowadays there is much talk of rights, frequently neglecting duties; perhaps we have paid too little heed to those who are hungry. It is also painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by “market priorities”, the “primacy of profit”, which have reduced foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation, also of a financial nature. And while we speak of new rights, the hungry remain, at the street corner, and ask to be recognised as citizens, to receive a healthy diet. We ask for dignity, not for charity.
2. These criteria cannot remain in the limbo of theory. Persons and peoples ask for justice to be put into practice: not only in a legal sense, but also in terms of contribution and distribution. Therefore, development plans and the work of international organisations must take into consideration the wish, so frequent among ordinary people, for respect for fundamental human rights and, in this case, the rights of the hungry. When this is achieved, then humanitarian intervention, emergency relief and development operations – in their truest, fullest sense – will attain greater momentum and bring the desired results.
3. Interest in the production, availability and accessibility of foodstuffs, climate change and agricultural trade should certainly inspire rules and technical measures, but the first concern must be the individual as a whole, who lacks daily nourishment and has given up thinking about life, family and social relationships, instead fighting for survival. St. John Paul II, in the inauguration in this hall of the First Conference on Nutrition in 1992, warned the international community against the risk of the “paradox of plenty”, in which there is food for everyone, but not everyone can eat, while waste, excessive consumption and the use of food for other purposes is visible before our very eyes. Unfortunately, this “paradox” remains relevant. There are few subjects about which we find as many fallacies as those related to hunger; few topics as likely to be manipulated by data, statistics, the demands of national security, corruption, or futile lamentation about the economic crisis. This is the first challenge to be overcome.
The second challenge to be faced is the lack of solidarity; we suspect that subconsciously we would like to remove this word from the dictionary. Our societies are characterised by growing individualism and division: this ends up depriving the weakest of a decent life, and provokes revolts against institutions. When there is a lack of solidarity in a country, the effects are felt throughout the world. Indeed, solidarity is the attitude that makes people capable of reaching out to others and basing their mutual relations on this sense of brotherhood that overcomes differences and limits, and inspires us to seek the common good together.
Human beings, as they become aware of being partly responsible for the plan of creation, become capable of mutual respect, instead of fighting between themselves, damaging and impoverishing the planet. States, too, understood as a community of persons and peoples, are required to act concertedly, to be willing to help each other through the principles and norms offered by international law. A source of inspiration is natural law, inscribed in the human heart, that speaks a language that everyone can understand: love, justice, peace, elements that are inseparable from each other. Like people, States and international institutions are called to welcome and nurture these values – love, justice, peace – and this must be done with a spirit of dialogue and mutual listening. In this way, the aim of feeding the human family becomes feasible.
4. Every woman, man, child and elderly person everywhere should be able to count on these guarantees. It is the duty of every State that cares for the wellbeing of its citizens to subscribe to them unreservedly, and to take the necessary steps to ensure their implementation. This requires perseverance and support. The Catholic Church also offers her contribution in this field through constant attention to the life of the poor in all parts of the world; along the same lines, the Holy See is actively involved in international organisations and through numerous documents and statements. In this way, it contributes to identifying and assuming the criteria to be met in order to develop an equitable international system. These are criteria that, on the ethical plane, are based on the pillars of truth, freedom, justice and solidarity; at the same time, in the legal field, these same criteria include the relationship between rights and food, and the right to life and a dignified existence, the right to be protected by law, not always close to the reality of those who suffer from hunger, and the moral obligation to share the economic wealth of the world.
If we believe in the principle of the unity of the human family, based on the common paternity of God the Creator, and in the fraternity of human beings, no form of political or economic pressure that exploits the availability of foodstuffs can be considered acceptable. Political and economic pressure: here I think of our sister and mother, Earth, our planet, and of whether we are free of political and economic pressure and able to care for her, to avoid her destruction. We have two conferences ahead of us, in Perù and France, which pose the challenge to us of caring for our planet. I remember a phrase that I heard from an elderly man many years ago: God always forgives … our misdemeanours, our abuse, God always forgives; men forgive at times; but the Earth never forgives. We must care for our sister the Earth, our Mother Earth, so that she does not respond with destruction. But, above all, no system of discrimination, de facto or de jure, linked to the capacity of access to the market of foodstuffs, must be taken as a model for international efforts that aim to eliminate hunger.
By sharing these reflections with you, I ask that the Almighty, God rich in mercy, bless all those who, with different responsibilities, place themselves at the service of those who experience hunger and who assist them with concrete gestures of closeness. I also pray that the international community might hear the call of this Conference and consider it an expression of the common conscience of humanity: feed the hungry, save life on the planet. Thank you.
Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis’ weekly general audience and Archbishop Blase Cupich is installed as the Archbishop of Chicago.
On November 23, 2014, the Feast of Christ the King, Pope Francis will canonize six blesseds and inscribe them in the roll call of Saints. These blesseds consist of two Indians and four Italians, including one layman and one bishop.
The blesseds who are to be canonized on Sunday are:
- Kuriakose Elias Chavara: A priest and the founder of the Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. He is remembered for his solid leadership and is recognized for having saved the Church in Kerala from a schism in 1861.
- Mother Eufrasia Eluvathingal: A member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Mother of Carmel. She was born in 1877 in Kattur and came to be known as the “Praying Nun.”
- Amato Ronconi: Founder of the hospital known as the “Blessed Amato Ronconi Nursing Home” and a layman member of the Third Order of St. Francis.
- Giovanni Antonio Farina: Italian bishop of Vicenza and the founder of the Institute of the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Heart.
- Nicola da Longobardi: Professed oblate of the Order of Minims.
- Ludovico da Casoria: Founder of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters Elisabettine and professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor.
Salt + Light will broadcast the mass from Rome at 12:00 pm ET / 9:00 am PT. Watch live.
Below you find the full text of Archbishop Blase Cupich’s homily during the Installation Mass as Archbishop of Chicago:
Bienvenido, Witam, Mabuhay, Dobro dosli, Welcome
I am delighted and honoured to be your archbishop.
So many of you in this cathedral today have come – from near and so very far – friends and family, brother bishops and priests, religious, lay women and men. Former parishioners and pastors from Omaha, Rapid City, Spokane have joined us as well. Your being here consoles me with the hope that our friendships will continue to endure in the years ahead. Last night, I had a chance to welcome my brother bishops, and now I am pleased to greet our papal nuncio, Archbishop Vigano. We all know how demanding your schedule is, Archbishop, and so we offer our thanks to you, not only for being with us today, but for all you do to so ably represent Pope Francis, our Holy Father, who is well-loved and who makes us proud.
When it came to selecting a date for the installation, November 18 seemed to be a great fit. The Commemoration of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul gives me a chance to recognize all immigrants, as I recall my own immigrant grandparents who helped establish my home parish of Saints Peter and Paul in Omaha. Additionally, the Church’s calendar today celebrates St. Philippine Duchesne, someone the Native People honored with the name Woman Who Prays Always. She reminds us of the extraordinary contribution women religious have made and continue to make to the church and society. I intend to honor and give thanks for all these people today, especially for family and immigrants, Native Americans and religious sisters – all of whom have shaped so much of our faith, our lives and our Church ministries.
But I have to admit, I had a bit of a panic attack when I saw the Gospel provided in the Lectionary for this day, which we have just heard. I realize this new responsibility is going to be demanding, but seriously folks, I don’t do “walking on water.” I can barely swim. So I hope this image in today’s Gospel is not reflective of anyone’s expectations.
In all honesty, what intrigues me about the readings for today, is how the Gospel and the first reading from Acts complement each other in the language and symbolism they share in common. The Gospel recounts Jesus, during his earthly life, walking on water, inviting Peter to join him, and Acts witnesses to how Paul and the Church, animated by the Spirit, following the resurrection, now cross the seas to evangelize and invite the Gentiles, all people, to encounter and to walk with the Risen Christ. That interplay of the two texts is so rich and captures something St. Leo the Great wrote centuries ago (cf., Catechism of the Catholic Church 1114- 1115).
Pope Leo remarked that everything which was visible in Jesus’ words and actions during his hidden life and public ministry has passed over after Christ’s resurrection into the sacraments and the life of the Church. That truth is on full display in the readings today, to the point that the Gospel is more than an account of Jesus walking on water, more than a story of Jesus revealing his divinity to the disciples by a stunning show of power. Read alongside the story of Paul’s missionary journey, this Gospel text becomes a point of reference to understand the meaning of the resurrection, how the Risen Lord is working in our midst today, and how disciples in all ages, how the Church in our time, should view its mission.
Simply put, we are to join Christ in seeking out, inviting, and accompanying, by abiding with those to whom he sends us. Each one of those aspects of our mission, seeking out, inviting and accompanying deserves a closer look.
Jesus’ walk across the waters is intentional. He has come to seek out and to save the troubled, those who are lost. But, this scene from Matthew’s Gospel offers us a new insight; it gives us a glimpse into what compels him to take up this mission. Jesus, we are told, has been on the mountain, in the quiet intimacy of prayer with his Father. That experience of sharing life with the Father is what moves him, prompts him to go out and seek others, so that they too may have this life. He is so driven in this mission that nothing stands in his way, not even the obstacle of crossing over water on his own. Sharing his life in the Father with us is the source of his enthusiasm and determination, is his motivation for seeking out the disciples and is the reason why he has come into the world.
We see a similar kind of drive and enthusiasm in people from time to time, where something so transformative and life giving happens to them, leaving them with no alternative but to spend their life sharing their experience with others. I have seen this kind of enthusiasm in great teachers. Their drive and incentive goes way beyond getting through the curriculum or earning a paycheck. What inspires the really good teacher is the transformative experience of insight that comes in learning. Really good teachers delight in seeing the light of discovery go on in their students’ eyes and they never pass up the chance to make that happen.
Marie Walsh was such a person. I brought her communion on First Fridays during my first years as a priest. A retired English teacher, she never passed up a chance to share her knowledge of literature and language. Marie suffered from diverticulitis, and could only take a small part of the host. One day, after giving her the Eucharist and a sip of water, she began to cough and so I said “Marie would you like to lay down.” She sharply muttered something, which I didn’t catch, and so I asked her, “Marie, what did you say?” She held the back of my neck, and with a laugh in her voice scolded me: “I said ‘chickens lay eggs; people lie down.’” She was correcting my grammar! It didn’t matter if she was in great pain or frail, she was going to make sure I spoke proper English.
We face in our day the formidable task of passing on the faith to the next generation, of evangelizing a modern and sometimes skeptical culture, not to mention inspiring young people to serve the Church as priests and religious. It all seems so daunting, as daunting as walking on water. We are at sea, unsteady in our approach faced with these concerns. Catechists and educators are on the front line of this struggle. So, too, parents and grandparents wonder if they are going to be the last Catholics in their family. Likewise bishops and priests find that the Good News is increasingly difficult to proclaim in the midst of great polarization in church and society.
Jesus tells all of us today to go back to where our journey of faith began, to be in touch with the joyful experience of being transformed by the intimacy God offers us, to be willing to share it with the next generation. Young people have always been attracted to authenticity of life, where words match deeds. Let’s not be afraid to let our young people know about our life with God and how it began. Like Marie Walsh, let’s stay close to them, so close that we can hold them by the neck, and tell them what it means for us to believe, and share with them how the Gospel has brought joy and meaning to us and transformed our lives. Such witness of personal faith many times has made the skeptic take a second look, has inspired vocations, and in my experience, animates our advocacy on behalf of human dignity with joy and compassion, purifying it of anger, harshness and fear.
The authenticity that comes in making our own baptismal calling the starting point for all we do is also demanded of me as your archbishop, particularly as I reach out to those who have been sexually abused by Church leaders. That starting point will always be needed for me and my brother bishops to keep fresh the serious duty to honor and keep the promises we made in 2002. Working together to protect children, to bring healing to victim survivors and to rebuild the trust that has been shattered in our communities by our mishandling is our sacred duty, as is holding each other accountable, for that is what we pledge to do.
Jesus seeks out, but then he invites. “Come,” he says to Peter, “walk on the stormy waters with me.” Peter’s response is a brave act for an experienced fisherman. But, it is the kind of daring and boldness required today, the courage to leave our comfort zone and take an entirely new step in our faith journey, both personally and as a community. There is resistance in each of us to take that risk. We can be self-satisfied where we are. Pope Francis tells us that the temptation is to think and say “I’m religious enough, I’m Catholic enough, or for Church leaders to resist needed reform by claiming “we haven’t done that before” or “you cannot say that.”
We all have some anxiety and hesitancy to change, and I’ve noticed that many times in life we deal with the tension by joking about our resistance to change, to grow, to become more, beyond the minimum and enter more deeply into life with God. A friend who is a baseball fan tells me that when he thinks about getting into heaven, he is counting on being able “to slide in to home plate on a steal.”
One hot sultry day, I was boarding a plane and was struggling to put my carry-on bag into the overhead bin. The people behind me weren’t happy with me holding up the line as the air- conditioning wasn’t on. Finally, the man next to me, put his bag down, took mine in hand and effortlessly shoved it in the compartment, leaving me somewhat embarrassed. Then, to my surprise he said at the top of his voice for all to hear, “Well Father, will that get me to heaven?” I was so flustered, all I could think to say was, “Gee, I hope not on this flight!”
Jesus invites us, not only to take the risk of leaving our comfort zone, but also to deal with the tension involved in change, not dismissively but in a creative way, and to challenge each other to do so. Maybe, we hear that challenge today as a call to leave behind our comforting convictions that episodic Sunday Mass attendance is good enough, that we don’t really have to change our habitual bad behavior, our unhealthy dependencies, our inordinate attachments, because we can get by as we are, because they have not gotten us into any serious trouble yet, or just because we are afraid of the unknown.
Pope Francis is giving voice to this invitation in our day, by inviting the Church to come and walk with Christ, as he is always doing something new. It is an invitation to leave behind the comfort of going the familiar way. He is challenging us to recognize that Christ is always inviting us to more, to greater things. It is the kind of invitation our bishops’ conference is making to our nation to be what it has always promised to be, to protect the vulnerable, poor and weak, to treat immigrants with justice and dignity, to respect life and to be good stewards of creation. It is the invitation of Jesus, “Come, take the risk of being more.”
Finally, Jesus gets into the boat. I have always thought that it took more courage for Jesus to get into that boat with those disciples than for Peter to get out of it to walk on water. There was fear, doubt, jealousy even anger in that boat – a lot of unresolved conflicts as a therapist might say.
But, it is in the incomplete, the in-between and in the brokenness of our lives where Jesus comes to share his life in the Father with us. His coming to be with us, his communion with us is not for the perfect, but is for the salvation of souls, for the lost, the forlorn, and those who are adrift. His communion is not just a quick visit, but he wants to be with us to the point of making our lives the dwelling place, the home where he and the Father abide. After going to the mountain to pray, to be with his Father, he comes into our messy lives with his Father in hand, to share our lives where we are.
It is that grace of the indwelling of the Spirit, the love of the Father and the Son, which has always been the source of real, ongoing and sustainable conversion. It is the grace of mercy, totally undeserved and unearned, that brings about real lasting change and transformation and gives life.
So, we as a Church should not fear leaving the security of familiar shores, the peacefulness of the mountaintop of our self-assuredness and walk into the mess. A military chaplain recently told me that soldiers easily know where to find him in the battle encampment because the chaplain’s tent is most often next to the medical tent.
While Pope Francis is famous for urging the Church to be a field hospital and pastors to know the smell of the sheep, Blessed Pope Paul VI expressed a similar sentiment with an inspiring message to my classmates nearly forty years ago on their day of ordination. This is what he said:
“Know how to accept as an invitation the very reproach which perhaps, and often unjustly, the world hurls against the Messenger of the Gospel. Know how to listen to the groan of the poor, the candid voice of the child, the thoughtful cry of youth, the complaint of the tired worker, the sigh of the suffering and the criticism of the thinker. But, ‘Never be afraid.’ The Lord has repeated it.” (Homily, June 29, 1975)
Of course as our papal nuncio reminded the bishops just last week, St. John Paul II began his pontificate with Christ’s comforting words to the disciples, “Do not fear.” Archbishop Vigano? then added: “we must not be afraid to walk with our Holy Father (Pope Francis) and to trust in the infinite value of following the Holy Spirit as our First Teacher in guiding the Church.”
That is the urging of the Word of God today. Just as Jesus left the peacefulness of his mountain top prayer to embrace the disciples in all their too human and fallible journey, so now the Church in our day is called to be faithful to its mission, the mission taken up by Paul and Peter, by putting aside her fears and the allure of false securities, and leap into the turbulent but creative waters of life in the world with the guidance of God and the charge of the Gospel.
Not being afraid is the gift that separates the disciple before and after the resurrection as we see in the responses of Peter and Paul through the readings today. Yet, it is providential that Peter experienced the terror that stormy night, for he could then uniquely witness for the Church in all ages through his successors, the power of the resurrection to vanquish all fears, disappointments, hesitations and doubts.
Peter could then witness how the resurrection is not just a past event, but an ongoing reality. He could remind us that what Jesus did in crossing the sea, he did again, by crossing from death to life, from eternity to our time, as he continues to make that crossing with us in our day. He could tell us that Jesus came back from the dead for us, to be with us. That is the reason we are not afraid – because we are not alone.
That is why now in our day Peter in his successor, Pope Francis, urges us to take up the task of crossing the seas to seek out, to invite and to accompany others, because the Risen Christ is in the boat with us.
(CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)
(CNS photo/Jeff Haynes, Reuters)
(CNS photo/John Smerciak, Catholic New World)
Below you will find Archbishop Blase Cupich’s homily in Holy Name Cathedral at Monday evening’s prayer service on the vigil of his installation as the Ninth Archbishop of Chicago:
The Windy City’s ablaze with gratitude & hope
Chicago welcomes Archbishop Blase Cupich at Prayer Vigil
It is only polite to begin with an expression of gratitude for the warm welcome I have just received in such a personal way from various representative officials of church and state. But before I do that, I ask your kind understanding as I attend to the important and happy task of publicly recognizing the dedicated service to the Church and to this City, of a native son of Chicago, who has distinguished himself both here and abroad as our Bishop’s Conference President, who always responded with a generosity that motivates and inspires and who has been unfailingly gracious and cordial to me, especially in these days. The Provincial of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate put it well in a recent letter to his confreres, “we are grateful for Cardinal George’s prophetic ministry in favor of the sanctity of life and dignity of the poor and marginalized. He has faced a broad spectrum of issues…and in doing so he has always brought great intelligence, insight, strong conviction and a pastoral heart to every issue and situation.” And so, on behalf of all of us, all those whose faith and lives have been enriched by your witness and your ministry, I want my first words on this occasion to be “thank you Cardinal Francis George.”
All of you have warmly greeted me, elected officials, public servants, community leaders and diplomats, ecumenical and interfaith representatives, archdiocesan brothers and sisters representing ethnic groups, various offices and committees, religious women and men, and my own brother bishops and brother priests of Chicago. I am grateful for your welcome to this city and to this cathedral. In fact, I feel so much at home here that now I in turn welcome you not only to this cathedral, but into my heart. That is the kind of greeting I have learned from the Lakota people in South Dakota, whose welcome always comes as an exchange from one heart to another.
We are honored to have our Holy Father Pope Francis with us in the person of our Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. Welcome Archbishop and thank you for taking time from your demanding schedule to be with us. He is joined by other brother bishops from across this country and the world. All of your obligations are terribly exacting, especially at this time of the year, and my welcome to you comes with a sincere thanks for the heartwarming gift of fraternal support your presence means to all of us.
Finally, I welcome my family, my eight brothers and sisters and spouses, nephews and nieces, and extended family members, who for the most part are occupying this entire right side of the Cathedral!
On Saturday, September 20, the day my appointment by Pope Francis was announced, the first question at the news conference was: “What’s your agenda? What are your priorities? What’s the first thing you want to accomplish?”
I really wanted to respond: “Getting through this news conference!”
But, as for my agenda, if I have learned anything over these past four decades as a pastor, I know it is a disaster for me to have my own agenda. That is not because I don’t have dreams and hopes, or that I want to ignore the challenges and trials of life. Rather it is because I have learned that my agenda is always too small; it’s prone to be self-serving, and ultimately unworthy of the people I am called to serve. No, the agenda has to be God’s, which is beyond our imagining and our abilities. And unlike our priorities, God’s agenda has staying power, it endures.
We see that kind of divine agenda occupying the attention of Ezekiel, a prophet who oftentimes addresses the leaders of the people, pressing them to be attentive to how God is working in the world, so that they can also join in the restoration, the building up and bringing life to the people they serve.
This night, Ezekiel speaks of God’s work in the dryness that not infrequently afflicts human existence. His immediate concern is to inspire new life in the people living in exile, by offering a vision of the new city to be built by God. They have suffered the humiliating defeat by Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. The people are scattered and disconnected, with hopes broken and barren. They are like dry bones strewn carelessly to rot in an abandoned field under the scorching sun of oppression.
While the circumstances may be different, this kind of dryness is present in our modern times, a dryness that eats away at our hopes and leaves us disoriented. It is the dryness elderly and sick persons can experience when their strength gives way and their bones become unsteady, to the point that they begin to question their worth, their sense of purpose and even the faith that has heretofore directed their lives. We see that dryness caked on the faces of the homeless street people, in the fatigue of the underemployed worker cobbling together three or four low paying jobs to make ends meet, but also in the hectic pace of the successful business owner whose long hours in the office leave little time for family meals and sharing, for rest and recreation.
T. S. Elliot captures all of this so well in his epic poem, The Wasteland, where he describes how our modern lives easily become:
“A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water.”
All that’s left is “Fear in a handful of dust,”and a life in rats’ alley / where the dead men lost their bones.”
We, who are public servants, pastors, leaders know well this kind of dryness that ails the human soul and fatigues both body and spirit. We come face to face with it in the service to our citizens and the ministry to our parishioners.
But, we who serve in public life as leaders also experience our own dryness, in the tedium of attending to administrative details, which most often go unnoticed or unappreciated, in the frustration we feel as we are called upon to face enormous challenges with limited energies and shrinking resources, and whenever opportunities for real improvement are squandered by petty squabbles and divisive discourse. We both as church and civic leaders know that kind of dryness. Like Ezekiel we can look over the landscape of our life and service and lament, “how dry these bones are.”
But, the prophet draws our attention to this rather bleak scene, not to chastise or criticize, to dishearten or discourage. Rather, by crisscrossing, north and south, east and west through the vast field of dry and scattered bones, this representative, this voice of God, is consoling us with the message that the Lord of Creation, is with us, is walking through this dryness with us, the dryness we face each and every day as leaders.
And so, let us for a moment walk together with Ezekiel tonight and listen attentively as he encourages us with the three words he speaks: Spirit, People and Land – three words of comfort, words to encourage, words to help us keep our focus on all that God is doing, so that our ways may be God’s ways.
What should not go unnoticed as Ezekiel speaks in the Spirit over the dry bones is that there is still a responsiveness, a receptivity, a sensitivity in this lifeless heap of bones. There is still something that remains, beyond the dryness and death that has smothered these dismembered skeletons. All that is needed is for the prophet, the leader in their midst, to speak in a way that inspires, to speak to the deep yearnings of the people we serve, because it is God who is keeping alive their legitimate aspirations, even when there seems to be no hope. That is why it should be beneath our dignity as leaders to speak in ways that appeal to the fears and anxieties of people rather than the hopes and yearnings God has planted in their hearts.
And when it comes to speaking to each other in moments of deep disagreement, this does not mean that we should shy away from stating our position or making our point. “We cannot engage in real dialogue unless we are conscious of our own identity,” as Pope Francis reminds us. But then he adds: “Nor can there be authentic dialogue unless we are capable of opening our minds and hearts, in empathy and sincere receptivity, to those with whom we speak….We are challenged to listen not only to the words which others speak, but to the unspoken communication of their experiences, their hopes and aspirations, their struggles and their deepest concerns…If our communication is not to be a monologue, there has to be openness of heart and mind to accepting individuals and cultures.”
That is a message for all of us, for me, for my brother priests working in parishes and other ministries, and for elected officials and public servants.
But, civil discourse is needed not just so we can get something done for the common good, but because of the impact that failing to do so has on society.
Recent studies on the involvement of young people in religion and public life bear out a common factor that discourages their participation – the harsh rhetoric and lack of comity and civility within each group and in the way leaders in both groups treat each other. A good friend of mine, who is with us tonight, advised me when I became a seminary rector, to place a high priority on developing a faculty, a team that modeled to students how adults should act. As Msgr. Lawrence Purcell, former rector of the North American College put it, “you will teach them more about a collaborative model of ministry in this way than anything you say.”
It is not surprising that parishioners, citizens and the public become uneasy and disaffected with community and public life when they see leaders speak in ways that incite fears rather than inspire hope. There is collateral damage in such tactics. But, there is an even greater promise of really accomplishing something that lasts, done by God’s grace, when we speak with the deliberate and unified aim of bringing dry bones to life. Such a commitment to civil and respectful discourse is about meeting God half way as He keeps the aspirations of those we serve alive in the struggles they face in life.
Ezekiel also invites us to look for where God is working to build up the people. Notice that the spirit evoked brings about a rattling of the bones, not to assemble skeletons as individuals, but as a vast army. There is a dryness in many people’s lives because they have little experience of being connected in society. For them, the only economy that counts is one that depends on connections they never had and never will. So many are left unconnected because of poverty spread across generations, racism or not having mentors to guide and inspire them about the value of education, hard work, and the self-discipline needed for personal stability.
Already in the short time I have been here, I have been edified by the great work so many of you are doing through various charities, apostolates, labor unions, the business community, government programs, schools, volunteer and civic groups and you should be encouraged to know that helping people get connected, experience being a part of society, is where God is active, working and gracing you in your dedicated ministry and labors. You are using your connections to help those disconnected and that is the work of God.
Our aim should be to make sure that everyone has a place at the table of life, the mother needing prenatal and postnatal care and protection for herself and her child, the former inmate seeking a fresh start, the drug addict who needs someone to help her take one day at a time, the father and mother who want their children to have the educational opportunities other families have – this is the vast army God is inviting us to raise up with him.
Central governments in the Church and the state have enormous power to create bonds, stimulate cooperation and motivate people to work together on the local level. That has always been my approach, seeing the diocesan offices as being at the service of our parishes, to animate them while uniting and building bonds among ourselves as one local Church.
The Hebrew term Ha Aretz, is not just about real estate, turf, or dirt, but it refers to the land on which God’s people live with stability, and a sense of belonging. God’s desire to bring about this sense of belonging is present in the aspirations of every migrant and immigrant, and that is why they need to be respected, treated with justice and welcomed. God is at work in giving people a life of stability, a feeling of being at home, and of living in an environment that satisfies the desires God has placed in their hearts. The work of comprehensive immigration reform is not important because it is on my agenda, but because it is on God’s.
But, there are others who feel little sense of belonging and stability. Many youth have no dreams, no real aspirations, no sustaining hope. And so they turn to a destructive world of drugs, gangs, and lethal violence.
There are no easy answers to this, but I am aware that good people within our parishes and in the city are working imaginatively to address this issue. I admire the creativity of bringing gang members together for sports and in other venues to ease growing tensions. I believe that shoring up and strengthening family life and education are also essential ingredients.
You will find in me a ready partner, but also one who believes that this work is not inconsequential, is not an option, because again, it too is on God’s agenda.
For me it is quite humbling as I come to offer servant leadership to this local Church to be associated with lay women and men, clergy, religious and bishops who continue to have an enormous impact in society. That is especially so as I now follow two great predecessors, Cardinal Bernardin and Cardinal George, both intellectual and spiritual leaders, but most of all pastoral men who both have been models of faith and trust in God in having to deal with serious illness as they valiantly continued to shepherd the people of God.
But, it is also true that United States has benefitted from the talents and leadership of many Chicagoans over our nation’s history, contributing common sense Midwestern values in touch with the real lives of people. We are a city that is unafraid to walk through the dry bones.
Tonight Ezekiel encourages us to continue doing so because that is where God is and where God’s agenda begins. It is an agenda that encourages me as I begin my service to welcome new friendships with other leaders in our parishes, in the business community, labor and government, because I recognize the enormous opportunity and promise that God is putting before us as we use our connections to help the disconnected, all the while respecting each other’s challenges.
It is an agenda that has its origins in the very creation of the world, for God’s plan all along has been to make this tiny speck of cosmic dust in the vast universe a land, a home for us all.Spirit, People and Land – these are God’s words to comfort and encourage, words to help us in this graced time and blessed city to keep our focus on all that God is doing, so that our ways may be God’s ways.
And, the promise tonight is that if we keep these three words close to our hearts, all the while remembering our proud heritage of contributing to the good of the nation, then not only will we get things done, but we will probably end up rattling some bones.