November 2017 Four County Catholic
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we approach the traditional season of Thanksgiving, so close to its place of origin, we find ourselves facing persistent social justice challenges and troubling threats to personal and national security. By any measure, these are severely trying times.
In the midst of what seems to be one crisis against humanity after another, His Holiness Pope Francis has a powerful message for us -- “What a real Christian is like, is not whiny and angry, but convinced by the strength of the Resurrection that no evil is infinite, no night without end, no hate is invincible from love. Those who have Christ at their side truly no longer fear anything. A Christian is a missionary of hope.”
Pope Francis’ message is central to the times in which we live and the opportunity we share to stand up to the imposing challenges before us. To lift each other up.
For weeks now, we have been struggling with the shock and grief of the injured and the lives lost at the horrific tragedies in Las Vegas, New York City, and Sutherland Springs, Texas. At the same time, recovery efforts continue for the victims of the hurricanes and wild fires. As we work at collecting ourselves and finding ways to reach out and help others, the relentless broadcast media and social media do their best to overwhelm us with constant coverage of threats to our safety and sanity.
All the while, we are deeply concerned and actively reaching out to the millions of refugees trying to escape wars and poverty. We remain determined to advocate for social justice and to ease racial tension. We are hard at work protecting life and the dignity of all our brothers and sisters. Moved by the compassion of Christ, we are there for the hungry, the poor, the vulnerable, the lonely and the homeless.
In fufulling the Christian mission, in time, we rely on the strength of our faith and the resolve to actively live our faith. Worshipping and living our faith in freedom is the blessings for which we are grateful at this time of thanksgiving.
Scripture reminds us in Philippians 4:6-8, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We give thanks for the opportunity for the freedom to worship, to serve, to help overcome and to heal.
How do we cope with the heavy burden and how do we help others survive their time in need? How do we let faith and hope lead the way? A sure way is to gather together as one in prayer, in receiving the grace of the Eucharist, in service through our support of diocesan ministries and parish initiatives. Our ministries such as Catholic Charities, Outreach to Haiti, the St. Vincent de Paul centers, Diocesan Schools among so many others help so many families in need each and every day. Your contributions and volunteer hours make these support services possible. You make a difference. You lift lives and save lives and souls. God bless you for your strength and kindness.
A further way to draw strength and radiate faith is to worship and pray together. The power of joining together at Mass on Sunday or any opportunity should never be underestimated. It comforts the soul and helps center our lives as an active community of faith.
A short story as example for you -- two weeks ago, we held a local retreat for the employees of the diocesan chancery. It was an honor for me to serve as the principal celebrant at Mass and participate in leading the prayer sessions. Our dearly departed Monsignor Brown, as Diocese Chancellor, had helped plan the day of recollection and also served as one of the concelebrants of the Mass. Both Monsignor and I were surprised and gratified at the number of attendees who came up to us afterward and shared their personal responses to how they were uplifted by joining together in recollection with colleagues they may not see often enough. One response that moved me was a ministry director who commented that one of the prayers so inspired him that he was going to begin saying that prayer each morning to start his day and take on its challenges and blessings. Even those working so closely with the Church are often moved by the prayerful and loving fellowship of uniting in prayer.
Be sure to join with your fellow parishioners on Sunday and at every opportunity. You will feel the“peace of God that surpasses all understanding.”
Sincerely yours in thanksgiving to Christ,
Bishop Michael R. Cote