January 2017 Four County Catholic
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The blessing of the Christmas season remains very closely with us as we prepare ourselves for a new year in an anxious world. As we gather ourselves for what may lie ahead, we reflect with love and profound gratitude on the gift of salvation given to each of us by the birth of Christ. This overwhelming gift strengthens our hope and resolve for a more settled, enlightened and peaceful world.
I recall Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s words from a Christmas Day homily some years ago, “Only if people change will the world change; and in order to change, people need the light that comes from God, the light which so unexpectedly entered into our night.” Let us follow that light into the New Year.
The New Year certainly is building toward formidable challenges, just about in every direction we might look. Challenge, of course, is opportunity by another name. On a worldwide scale, the challenges can seem insurmountable. But when we pull together to help each other as neighbors, family and faithful parishioners, we can make a difference one kind gesture, one caring moment, one extended hand at a time. This is what true believers in Christ our Lord do to make a difference and to contribute to the larger common good. All by the hope of Christ. In the guiding words of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, “God walks with us with His love. ‘I hope because God is by my side.’ Each one of us can say this.”
Hope flows from the personal connection we each have to principles of faith larger than ourselves. This holds true, as well, for our connection as citizens to a free and democratic society. Together, we share a commitment of the heart to charitable goodwill to our fellow man.
If we believe in the sanctity of life, compassion for the vulnerable, dignity of all among us, strong family values and that we are all equal in the eyes of Almighty God -- the expression of those beliefs will ultimately lead to world change. As daunting as a world in crisis seems to us, we can be the change makers. Right here at home. Right here in our schools. In our parishes and our diocese. God's love within each of us is transformational. We need to trust in that truth, and share the love.
The current global migration crisis is a vivid example of the potential of personal faith helping to lead the way toward just and humane solutions. It is complicated. We can agree on that. The uncertainty of a new incoming administration in Washington, turmoil across Europe, chaos in the Middle East and across Africa, worsening conditions across much of Latin America -- create a vast and volatile mix of challenges to world order. Yet, we know from the teachings of our faith and from the courage of that faith that if we stand in principle and in outspoken solidarity with those seeking refuge and a better life, good outcomes will follow. We are a faith of love and inclusion. This is our influence on neighbors, communities and Country. Through abundant good fortune, we live in a free Country whose first freedom is religious freedom and the right of self-expression. It is our right and it is right for us to stand with the poor and the displaced at every lawful opportunity.
We stand with all those suffering. We extends our hearts, our hands and our means to help as faithful Catholics and grateful citizens of a great Nation. Our unceasing efforts include dedicated diocesan charities and ministries, parish initiatives, national programs such as the U.S. Bishops' designation of January as Poverty Awareness Month, support of our growing Hispanic ministry through such efforts as the V Encuentro in which over one million will participate across all dioceses, and active outreach to our neighbors in impoverished Haiti. All these efforts start with you. They start with you and build to extraordinary outcomes. They are hope in action. As you will be hearing through the Annual Catholic Appeal efforts in the New Year, “Our faith calls us to action.”
The virtue of hope is the changemaker gift granted to each of us by the birth of the Christ Child, who is the source of all truth, love and life. Here lies our strength to change the world for the better. Faith will lead the way.
Sincerely yours in Christ’s love,
Bishop Michael R. Cote