|FOR THE GOOD OF THE HOUSEHOLD
December 27, 2004
Bishop Joseph V. Adamec
THE BANNING OF CHRISTMAS
Lights of various colors decorate the streets, yards, and yuletide trees. Snowmen and snowwomen dot the neighborhood. Stores are doing a booming business. Everyone wishes everyone else “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” Joyful music fills the air. It is all in preparation for the celebration of the Holiday of Lights – 2010.
Even though Christians still celebrate the day as Christmas, they may not do so publicly. One can be fined for displaying a crèche. Wishing someone a Merry Christmas is considered politically incorrect. The old standby carols are no longer sung in public. Even “Winter Wonderland” is unacceptable, as it refers to a Parson Brown. Nevertheless, Christians continue to observe the season for what it is, the birth of Jesus. But, now, they do it only in their churches and in the privacy of their own homes, with curtains drawn.
Does this sound “off the wall” to you? It has happened before and it can happen again. Actually, there has been an attempt to ban the Christ Child from the very beginning, when King Herod sought to destroy him in the massacre of the Innocents. One could cite several attempts since then. For example, the English Parliament banned Christmas observances in 1644. The Puritans in Massachusetts did the same.
If you have not noticed, clerks working in large department and chain stores are forbidden to wish you a “Merry Christmas.” Drive-thru light displays no longer have a Madonna and Child. The Salvation Army is forbidden to stand in front of certain stores. Students in public schools are forbidden to sing traditional Christmas carols.
Holy Days of other religious traditions appear not to be suffering the same persecution. They continue to be called by name, as they should be. So, why is Christmas different? This trend, which gets rooted deeper and deeper every year, is just the opposite of what religious freedom is about.
I cannot put it any better than did Maggie Gallagher of the New York Post. “In a truly tolerant society,” she writes, “people of all faiths would be free to celebrate their beliefs, not hide them away like something shameful.” As she says, “Freedom of religion doesn’t mean ‘airbrushing’ its tenets’ out of the public square.” On the contrary. “It demands that we live side by side, amicably and with mutual respect, with citizens with whom we disagree about the biggest and most fundamental questions of life.”
Regrettably, we Catholic Christians (and, perhaps, a good many other Christians, as well) have become a part of the scene. We are enabling the eventual ban of Christmas in public.
Here are some practical things that you can do in witness to the reality of Christmas. Continue to sing those Christmas carols until the Feast of Three Kings. Keep your Christmas decorations up for at least another week or even two. Do not throw your Christmas tree out onto the street the day after Christmas. Go to several chain stores between Christmas and New Year’s Day and continue to wish everyone there a “Merry Christmas.” Above all, let Christ be reflected in your behavior for the rest of your life.
|FOR THE GOOD OF THE HOUSEHOLD
December 13, 2004
Bishop Joseph V. Adamec
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
Most of us may have heard those words as part of a commercial for wireless phone service. The person in the commercial keeps repeating the question: “Can you hear me now?” as he moves from spot to spot, trying to avoid any interference in the area. We know that, often, all it takes is a step in one direction or another to get better reception. One of my favorite commercials has a man in an empty baseball stadium moving from seat to seat, each time asking: “Can you hear me now?”
A reflection moved me to ponder how applicable this commercial can be to us. We, too, should be adjusting our position, seeking to avoid the interference around us, in order to have God hear us. We want desperately for God to hear our message of love for him. In so many words and in so many acts, we are crying out to God with the question: “Can You hear me now?” If we have the sense that He does not hear us, maybe, it is an indication that we need to take a step in one direction or another, to change our seat in the stadium of earthly play, to do some reforming of our life.
However, when it comes to Advent and our preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord as God coming to be among his people, there could be a wider application of that commercial. It is God who is the one that has been crying out “Can you hear me now?” and has been doing it over the span of centuries. He provided humanity with a whole line of prophets to speak for him. One prophet after another spoke to God’s people about the plans that He had for them. But, the message was not being received. One can envision God asking humanity during the life of a particular prophet: “Can you hear me now?” And, because He was not being heard, God sent another and asked again: “Can you hear me now?”
Finally, God brought out the ultimate model, his own Son. The parable of the vineyard and tenants (Mt 21:33-39) as well as when Saint John of the Cross says “Although He had spoken but partially through the prophets He has now said everything in Christ” (Treatise on The Ascent of Mount Carmel) attest to this. Jesus is God himself. God’s message to us through his Son Jesus Christ is about as clear as He could make it.
This modern analogy might help us understand Christmas better. Christmas is about God making every effort to communicate with his people, even to the point of allowing himself to be crucified for it.
He came as one of us. His status was ordinary. The emotions that He showed reflect our own. Jesus’ actions and words can be understood easily, even by us. It would appear that the transmission of signals is perfect. So, can you hear him now? Or, do you need to change your position? The remainder of this Advent Season is the time for that, if you need such an adjustment.
|FOR THE GOOD OF THE HOUSEHOLD
November 29, 2004
Bishop Joseph V. Adamec
ADVENT AND THE EUCHARIST
With the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year in the Church. It is a time that recalls the anticipation with which the ancient Israelites awaited the promised Messiah. The person of John the Baptist has continued to challenge God’s people to a reformation of their lives, in order to be open to the presence of their God among them.
However, due to preconceived notions, many did not recognize the Christ when He finally came. His appearance was so simple and ordinary that human senses found it difficult to accept. What the human eye saw as a poor child born of humble circumstances was, in actuality, the insertion of an Almighty God into human history! That was beyond all understanding. It still is.
The Season of Advent provides us with a liturgical framework within which we can adjust our perspectives about a loving God. His presence among us is not as complicated as we would like to make it out to be.
The Person of Christmas and, therefore, of Advent, is also the Person of the Eucharist. There, too, his presence is simple and ordinary. It is beyond all understanding. Many find it impossible to accept.
Our Holy Father has declared this to be the Year of the Eucharist. The next twelve months will be a time for us to adjust our perspectives about our Lord’s Eucharistic presence among us. It will be an extended Advent. As in the desert with John the Baptist and at the manger with Mary and Joseph, the presence of Jesus in our tabernacles both challenges our faith and gives us hope. In its simplicity, the Eucharist encompasses a grandeur that cannot be contained.
While a total understanding is impossible, acceptance is a matter of a loving response. That response revolves around a reverence for the Sacrament and the importance of Sunday Mass in the life of a Catholic, receiving Holy Communion in the state of grace, observing the Eucharistic fast, - along with belief in the real presence of Christ in the consecrated elements.
So that our observance of the Year of the Eucharist might be all-encompassing and as fruitful as possible, I have asked that all programs and events throughout our Diocesan Church be focused on the Eucharist during 2005. That affects all of our diocesan departments, our schools, the Catholic institutions of higher learning, our campus ministries, hospital ministries, prison ministries, as well as our parishes. A pamphlet prepared by us Bishops of Pennsylvania can be very helpful in reviewing our belief in the real sacramental presence of our Lord in the Eucharist.
In order to provide each one of our parish faith communities with an opportunity to reflect and meditate on the Eucharistic mystery, I have asked that all Pastors of our parishes and Chaplains of institutions set a formal time for Eucharistic prayer during 2005. This is to take the form of Eucharistic Days or Forty Hours. I pray that an overwhelming participation on the part of our Faithful will bring an abundance of God’s blessings upon them and this Diocesan Church.
One of our community newspapers recently published an article by a Steve Gushee of the New York Times News Service. “The Pope has named so many saints he has debased the currency of holy people,” he wrote in the article.
The assertion, of course, is absurd. It is plain to see that Mr. Gushee does not understand sainthood or canonization. Nor does he, apparently, aspire to be a saint, which is a shame. Aside from that, I wonder if he does not have a hidden agenda of some kind. If he is not of the Faith, why does he feel an obligation to ridicule another religion? If he is of the Faith, he does not appear to appreciate it very much.
As we know, the Pope does not make saints. One either is or is not. After a long process of investigation, he merely recognizes them and places them on an official list, which is what canonization means. There are many more saints in heaven than the ones that are canonized. Many more individuals in our Diocesan Church live out the spirit of the Reverend Prince than just the ones to whom I award the Gallitzin Cross. Some are picked out to remind us of the others. There can never be too many of either.
Mr. Gushee bases the attack on his judgment that some of the Pope’s choices for canonization are questionable. He refers to one recently beatified nun as having achieved “15 minutes of contemporary fame.” His reference is to the fact that Mel Gibson was inspired for his film “The Passion of the Christ” by an account that some author wrote about her alleged visions. However, in this case of Sister Anna Katharina Emmerick and her beatification, it was not what someone else wrote. Much of that could have been the result of the author’s own machinations. Rather, she was a person who suffered much, allowing God to work in her life. She also had a great concern for others. Perhaps, the Holy Father saw his own life reflected in hers. Would that be true for all of us!
All of us are called to be saints, to be in favor with the Lord. The Apostle Paul referred to those who lived lives faithful to the Lord as saints, even though they were still alive. Some ancient paintings have individuals depicted with square halos along with those with round ones. Those with square halos were the ones who were still earthly-bound at the time of the painting.
In the month of November, the Church takes note of her heroes and heroines, the saints. We do so on the Solemnity of All Saints, praising God for those who are not on the official list as well as those who are. The purpose of that particular feast day is to remind us that there are many saints, in addition to the ones that we know.
In this Year of the Eucharist, we will do well to reflect on the words of institution (consecration) of the Mass. The Lord came to be among his people in order to call us into holiness. That is the same as becoming a saint. He made it possible for us to do that. The Eucharist recalls that for us. What we receive in Holy Communion is the sacramental Body that was given up for us and the sacramental Blood that was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Its intent is to make saints of us all. The Lord’s death and resurrection made that a real possibility.
What if a couple of saints were running for public office today? There have been public officials in the past who have been recognized as saints. Faithfulness to both their values and their office is what got them to sainthood, often through being willing to suffer for witnessing to the reality of the God that they professed.
On November 1, we observe a special day in honor of all the saints, those faithful heroes and heroines of the Church. Recalling them to our minds and hearts, we are encouraged and prompted to live after the pattern that they have set. So, what would it be like if two saints from our past were to run for public office?
There is a popular impression that politics and religion ought not to mix. How can they not, when our whole life is affected by both. We cannot divide our life into two and say one is political and the other religious. Each of us is only one person. In order to maintain our integrity as that person, we are called to be consistent in our principles and values throughout all of our endeavors. A person that stands right with his or her God will stand right with us.
Let us imagine two saints campaigning for the same office today. That could be the Apostles Peter and Paul. It could also be the Saintly Deacons Stephen and Lawrence. Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa of Avila would be another possibility. An interesting scenario might include Saints John Vianney and Padre Pio. For the purpose of our exercise, I propose that we put up Saints Augustine of Hippo and Francis of Assisi as our candidates.
Both of these saints came from respectable families. Yet, each of them could have reminded the other of his past sins. Augustine had lived a very promiscuous life. Francis was once among the rich that took advantage of the less fortunate. Eventually, both changed their lives. One gave up women and the other gave up riches. They might have disagreed on the economy; after all, Francis appeared not to be able to handle money well. Another disagreement might have had to do with appropriateness for office; after all, Augustine had not been a shining example in his youth. The fact that we recognize them as saints does not mean that they were incapable of a lively discussion.
Each would have had a unique perspective on the structures that might best serve the people. However, I am certain of their agreement on basic principles and values. One such basic principle involves life, the gift of existence, and the respect that we are to have for it in all its stages, from “womb to tomb.” A third-party candidate such as John the Baptist might be out there reminding us that we cannot have it “both ways.” It is unacceptable to claim one thing and then act contrary to it. That applies equally to candidates and voters.
The candidates presented for our choice this Tuesday are not saints. But, neither are we. Nevertheless, our discipleship in Christ calls us to an integrity of person in all of our actions, including that of voting. Our ultimate accountability to the Creator will not be based on our faithfulness as a member of a political party but on our faithfulness as a member of the Assembly of Believers, the Church. That would have been obvious to the saints. Rather than considering it a problem, however, the saints always considered such moments as opportunities to express their faithfulness to a loving God.
FOR THE GOOD OF THE HOUSEHOLD
October 18, 2004
Bishop Joseph V. Adamec
WHAT’S IN A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION?
A high school debate it is not. When the presidential debates are over, there will be much more at stake than a grade or a win for the debater. It is the whole nation that will either win or lose, depending on the values that the elected leader has espoused.
Every person who is serious about his or her relationship with God must take the privilege of voting very seriously. That includes us Roman Catholics. Every faithful Roman Catholic should know and understand the values that are ours. To claim that one is a Roman Catholic and not actively stand up (even in the voting booth) for the teachings of the Lord and his Church is tantamount to living a lie. We can fool others and, often, ourselves; but, never the One that counts.
When we vote for a president, we are, in effect, choosing a course for our nation. It has been suggested that, for such an awesome task, we should take God into the polling booth with us. Indeed, He does come along, whether we would choose to have Him there or not. For, while our vote is to be a secret one, it is not unknown to the Almighty.
Exercising our responsibility in the voting booth is not a simple one. Rarely do we have an ideal candidate that stands for all of the values that we are called to espouse. It is very likely that there will be some evil coming along with the good that we wish to choose when we vote for any particular candidate. So, how is our choice to be made? As is so often said: “Very carefully.”
As I see it, this particular election is primarily about life, that greatest and most basic of gifts from our Creator. We are called to promote life, as a God-given right, at all its stages. That includes before birth as well as after, when inconvenient as well as when convenient, for the guilty as well as for the innocent, and for those who disagree with us as well as for those who agree. In that regard, we may not kill indiscriminately (such as in abortion or war) and we may not use another person’s life simply for the enhancement of our own (such as in stem cell research or political opportunity).
In this election, it appears impossible to make a choice that encompasses all of the above. Therefore, our choice has to be the best that is available. Some will see the key issue as that revolving around the killing of unborn children. Others will see it as revolving around the killing of citizens in other countries as well as our own men and women in the military. Still others will simply be looking for what they hope could be a better life for themselves. Unfortunately, both desirable and undesirable consequences will come along with their choice.
So, how does one arrive at the correct choice? I would hope that it will be the result of an honest discernment, following a study of the issues and spending time in prayer for guidance. Whatever the choice will be for you, it needs to stand up to the ultimate test before Him who gave you life.
THE GOOD OF THE HOUSEHOLD
October 4, 2004
Bishop Joseph V. Adamec
GETTING OUR ATTENTION
October 4, the date of this issue, is my mother’s birthday. She entered eternity 13 years ago, at the age of 97 ½. This would have been her 111th birthday. My mother was 42 years old when I came along. My father was 48. (My brother, the only sibling, was 14.)
When I became a teenager (with all the challenges that teenagers bring), my father was 61. My mother was 55. My brother was married and had a family. You can well imagine life in our home, just my parents and me. I would like to think that I eventually became a joy to my parents in their old age. They tried to be (and, therefore, were) good parents.
Discipline could be problematic with such an age difference. I do not recall my father ever laying a hand on me. Perhaps, there was a reason. When he tried to catch me, I always outran him. My mother, on the other hand (and my brother can attest to this), knew how to get our attention. We lived in the days before bug zappers and aerosol sprays. The way to get rid of flies was to kill them, one by one. Every respectable household had a fly swatter. For those of you who do not recall, a fly swatter was a flat piece of rubber or nylon webbing on the end of a wire or wooden handle. Ours was of rubber with a wire handle; very durable, indeed.
When my mother reached for the fly swatter hanging on the wall of the kitchen and I did not see any flies around, I knew that there was “Trouble in River City.” All argumentation stopped and my attempt at getting her to see my side ended. She got my whole and undivided attention. Unfortunately, most of the time, I did not focus until after the swatter made contact.
Have you wondered lately if God is not trying to get our attention? I have. It does not appear to me that many of us are taking much notice. Consider the very unusual events of our day. There were the horrendous attacks on September 11 three years ago. Our area was allowed to be a part of that terrible scene through Flight 93, although spared. Why? Now we are experiencing a record number of very destructive hurricanes. There has been flooding where whole towns have suffered. And, of course, we have the continuing scandalous situation within our Church.
Do we not hear God exhorting us to change our ways? He is speaking to us, and we do not listen. He tries to capture us into his love and we run away. He tries to convince us, but we rationalize ourselves into living our lives according to our own desires. What does it take to move a human being to conversion?
If such a thing is possible with God, He has to be terribly disappointed with us. While He has showered us with love and provided for all our needs, we continue to be rebellious teenagers in both society and the Church. One of these days, God is going to reach for the fly swatter. Maybe He already has!
THE GOOD OF THE HOUSEHOLD
September 20, 2004
Bishop Joseph V. Adamec
Some of you may remember when television programs had only three commercials. I do. There was one at the beginning, another in the middle, and the third at the end. All three of them were for the same product. Frequently, the commercials were woven into the script and presented by one or more of the actors. The attention of the viewer was not diverted from the plot. The whole thing was kept within the flow of the whole show.
Today, it appears as if the purpose of viewing television is to watch a multitude of commercials. Somewhere in there, interspersed among them, is a show. It is not easy remembering the plot after being bombarded by a half dozen or more sale pitches for as many different products by individuals who have nothing to do with the show.
As in the past, the Lord our God speaks to us through the situations in which we find ourselves. Is there a message in the change that has occurred over the past several years relative to advertising on television? Perhaps, it could be a reflection of how we live our lives as a whole.
We are bombarded by so many people and so many things in our lives trying to get our attention. Our focus gets diverted very easily. As a result, we lose sight of the real purpose of our life and why we are walking the face of the earth. The extraneous matters tend to take center stage. This needs to get done and that needs to get done. This person puts this demand upon us and that person demands something else. Doing this thing is important today and doing that thing is important tomorrow. In all of our running in circles, we get distracted from the basic plot, so to speak.
I am not saying that we ought not to have responsibilities, or that what the world has to offer is necessarily bad. Nor, can we ignore the needs of those around us. But, we do need to put it all into proper perspective. And, none of it should distract us from the primary purpose of our existence.
For a more sane style of living, perhaps, we should follow the example of the “old” TV shows. Everything about them was calmer then, even the commercials. Our lives need to be that. And, they will be, if we learn to see every thing as a part of the whole of our life.
Those that have done so, appear to understand that what they are a part of, is all God’s show. What can easily become distractions in that show do not have to be that, if they simply get worked into the plot, like the commercials.
I guess that, in a way, our time in time is a time to work on our own particular production. We can either let the “commercials” take over our life or work a few of them into the plot. So, how is your production coming along? I’m still working on mine.
|FOR THE GOOD OF THE HOUSEHOLD
September 6, 2004
Bishop Joseph V. Adamec
HOME FOR A VISIT
Every five years, each Diocesan Bishop is obligated to make what is called an Ad Limina visit. As you read this, I will be either in route or already in the Vatican to fulfill this obligation, along with other Bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Please pray that our visit may be pastorally profitable for our Churches.
The complete title is Ad Limina Apostolorum and translates: To the Thresholds of the Apostles. This refers to the actual obligation of visiting the tombs of the two pillars of the Church, Saints Peter and Paul. The rest of what goes on during these visits are “add ons.”
The primary “add on,” of course, is a visit with the successor of Saint Peter, the Bishop of Rome, whom we know as the Pope. The current Holy Father has been most gracious in welcoming his brother Bishops to the Vatican and making himself available during the Ad Limina visits. Both His Holiness and his staff have made us feel very much at home, and that includes his Swiss Guard.
The Holy Father has made it a part of his schedule to meet with each group of Bishops, to invite them to concelebrate Mass with him in his private chapel, have them join him for lunch in the dining room of his apartment, and to meet with each Bishop individually. Due to his present health, I doubt if that will be the case this year. My understanding at this time is that his involvement with us will be limited to our meeting with him individually.
Besides celebrating Mass at the two tombs, much of the time will be spent visiting several Congregations. These are the various departments of the Holy See. The choice as to which ones we visit is ours as a group. Those visits usually consist of speaking with the Cardinal Prefect and his staff, who meet with us in a large conference room for a discussion of topics that anyone can bring up. Such discussions are most helpful in that they help the Holy See understand our special circumstances and clarify for us how the Holy See expects universal norms to be applied in our case.
I will be staying in Domus Sanctae Marthae (Saint Martha’s House), a relatively new residence within the city walls of the Vatican City State. One needs to pass through gates guarded by the Swiss Guard when entering or leaving. The staff of the hotel is very accommodating, and the food is wonderful. I have stayed there a number of times. It feels very much like home.
Rome is home to me for a number of reasons. It is the home of my priesthood. I lived there for six years, studying philosophy and theology. My ordination took place there. The first Mass that I ever celebrated was in Rome (and, it was in Latin). Two of my four seminary superiors are still living: the vice rector for finances (and my mentor) and my spiritual director. Both are now Cardinals.
But, of course, the Allegheny Mountains and the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown have been my real home for the past 17 years. That is the longest that I have lived in any one place during my whole life. It will be good to return home. I ask for your prayers that I do so safely.
|FOR THE GOOD OF THE HOUSEHOLD
August 23, 2004
Bishop Joseph V. Adamec
“This does not look good,” said one of the camp volunteers after lunch, as he was carrying a pail of garbage to be weighed. “One half of a pound!” proclaimed the volunteer. “We have to do better.”
All 200 individuals in the dining room were expected to remain in their places until the weighing. If the table scraps equaled an acceptable amount, the diners received a treat. They could choose a “bucket head,” someone who would have to run around the dining room with a bucket on his or her head. There was no bucket head that time.
The camp was in its third day. Up to that point, for nine meals, a total of three pounds of table scraps had been collected. Three pounds of food had been wasted! While that may not sound like a lot for a group of 200 eating three meals per day for three days, it is unacceptable at Camp Zaccheus. There, campers may have as much food as they want, as long as they eat it.
Camp Zaccheus is our diocesan weeklong summer camp for kids, where they vie to be recognized for their neatness. The numbers keep getting larger every year. 150 kids participated this year. Tom McConnell, our Diocesan Youth Director, and his staff of 50 volunteers shepherded the flock in spirituality, manners, ecology, sports, games, and being a good human being. It is wonderful to behold. Nowhere have I seen this many kids quiet down in an immediate response to the raising of a hand. When a counselor needed to speak to the group, he or she simply raised a hand, whereupon everyone else did as well. Within seconds, the whole room was quiet. As some teachers know, this works. Have you tried this at home?
I was invited to pay the campers a visit on the third day of camp. Some were in arts and crafts making piñatas when I arrived. Some were on their way to the beautiful, large swimming pool. Another group was somewhere in a learning session. A group was making a flag out of their handprints and signatures to send to Iraq. Others were practicing for that evening’s skit. Participants could even learn to fish (catch and release) from Hezzie, the pro. He stocks the pond, brings the rods and bait, and gives the lessons. Volunteers include priests, religious, seminarians, nurses, counselors, and others. It is money well spent for your child. As for those who cannot afford it, there are a number of individuals willing to cover the cost. No one needs to deny his or her child this wonderful experience.
The purpose of my visit was to celebrate Mass for the group. The altar was set up at one end of the dining hall, with the kids sitting in front of it on little swatches of carpet. They were very devout during the Liturgy and extremely attentive during Father John Byrnes’ homily about Saint John Vianney, the patron of priests. (It happened to be the saint’s feast day.) The kids were so quiet during the silent meditation after Holy Communion that I was not in a hurry to continue with the Mass. I asked them to teach their adults how to do that.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to know that we have good kids who, apparently, have good parents. We have ministries supported by your contributions to the Annual Catholic Appeal that do good things. We have good people who are willing to give of their time for the good of your sons and daughters. That all makes for a good Diocesan Church. Thank you.
August 9, 2004
Bishop Joseph V. Adamec
DIFFICULT TIMES BEGET BETTER TIMES
The people of the United States should never forget 9/11. Many already have. Many others cannot. None of us should. The reason why we should not is that thousands of lives were swept away and many more thousands of lives were changed. We of these Allegheny Mountains ought never to forget Flight 93. The reason for that is that it was our ground that came to enshrine the heroism of those passengers. If we do not forget, we will become better people of our nation and a more thankful faithful of this Diocesan Church.
A reading of the Church’s history will show that difficult times were a springboard, which God used to have his people be renewed, rededicated, and re-energized. What appeared to the human mind to be a catastrophe actually became a catalyst for the better. However, this happens only if there is a realistic reading of the times and an understanding that God is trying to get our attention.
Many would like to forget the current scandal in this country, involving some of the Church’s leadership. Others regard it as the beginning of the downfall of the Church. It is important that we do not succumb to either way of thinking. This is a time of understanding, support, and acceptance of the Body of Christ in its agony, rather than to be about just the opposite. We need to face the issue, understand its message, and be moved to make of ourselves a Church that is a more authentic and effective witness to that message.
I continue to rejoice over the vast majority of our diocesan faithful remaining committed to the Church, despite what we have endured and continue to endure as the result of sin. The Reverend Prince Demetrius Gallitzin has sown the seeds of faith deep. They continue to bear fruit, for they have not been easily plucked by the ravens of ill will nor have they been choked by the thistles of the scandal that continues to press in upon us from every side.
The desire on the part of men to serve the Church as priests has not diminished, either. Actually, it appears to have increased. A little over a week ago, I joined 16 young men on retreat at Saint John the Baptist in New Baltimore. I went there to preside at Mass for them and their families. At that time, I admitted four of them to Candidacy for Holy Orders. This is a ritual when the man proclaims officially and publicly that he intends to prepare himself for the priesthood even more seriously.
I cannot recall when we have had as many as four make that declaration at one time. There are 12 slated to attend one of the four seminaries that we use. Another six are discerning God’s call to them. It makes a bishop’s heart skip for joy.
Events that destroy other institutions only strengthen and nurture the Assembly of Believers. We see it in our history. Consider, for example, the Roman persecutions of the early Church, as well as the Church in Central and Eastern Europe in the wake of Communism. Difficult times are painful and appear to herald the demise of the Church. But, in reality, they are the voice of God speaking to us. I see it reflected in the commitment of our men preparing themselves for priestly service to God’s people. No doubt, they are a reflection of their parents and others around them who continue to live their lives in faithfulness to the Lord and his Church.