November 30, 2011 | The Long Island Catholic Vol. 50, No. 30 | BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY
This past Saturday brought another beautiful day in Rome. The bishops of New York had been together in the Eternal City for their Ad Limina visit since Wednesday. Thanksgiving morning Bishop DiMarzio of Brooklyn with his auxiliary bishops and I with Bishops Dunne and Walsh were invited to meet with Pope Benedict in his private library to share with him some of the pastoral challenges facing the two Long Island dioceses. The Holy Father had listened attentively first to the Brooklyn and then to the Rockville Centre bishops as we shared with him some of the characteristics of the pastoral life of our two dioceses. Now two days later it was the Holy Father’s turn after having listened to the thoughts and insights of the bishops from across New York state to respond to us and to offer, not just to the bishops of New York, but to all the bishops of the United States, the first of five discourses he will be giving to all the Catholics of our country during this coming year.
Recalling his pastoral visit to the United States in 2008, the pope underscored that the major purpose of his time with us was “to summon the Church in America to recognize … the urgency and demands of the new evangelization.” In light of that visit he is now going to reflect with us on the life of the Church in our country to help us bishops in our task “of leading the Church into the future which Christ is opening for us.”
One of the major concerns of Pope Benedict’s pontificate has been to engage secular society in a fruitful dialogue. This has not always been easy. While the character of a secular society differs from continent to continent, the Holy Father recognizes that one of the great opportunities we must embrace is to offer a vision to our own Catholics and all men and women of good will who share our recognition of the “breakdown in the intellectual, cultural and moral foundations of social life, and a growing sense of dislocation and insecurity, especially among the young, in the face of widespread social changes.” What he wants us to recognize is that, in the midst of this reality, many, Catholic or not, continue to look to the Church “for wisdom, insight and sound guidance in meeting this far reaching crisis.” Clearly we bishops, in union with our brother priests and with the active collaboration of all the members of the faithful, are called to see this moment in positive terms. This is a “summons to exercise our ministry” by “speaking out, humbly but insistently, in defense of moral truth, and offering a word of hope, capable of opening human hearts and minds to the truth that sets us free.”
We bishops had spoken of the fact that many of our own Catholics are “sacramentalized,” they have received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, but they have not been truly “evangelized.” Pope Benedict called us all to become “re-evangelized.” Thus we must face up to the spiritual crisis in our own lives that demands that we be open to interior renewal and spiritual conversion. Two initiatives of the U.S. bishops that will help us all are the documents on faithful citizenship, especially as we approach next year’s elections, and the many projects to defend, protect and deepen our appreciation of the sacrament of marriage.
Our Holy Father is well known for love of the liturgy. He has been one of the most noted leaders as a theologian and as a bishop in the reform and renewal of the spirit of the liturgy, helping us all grasp the inner core of the mystery of celebrating the Eucharist and living a sacramental life. It is no surprise that he chose the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal this past weekend as a point of reference to give us all some sound advice. He wants this new translation to be for us an opportunity for an ongoing catechesis to re-discover the true nature of liturgy and to experience ever more deeply the “unique value of Christ’s saving sacrifice for the redemption of the world.” He connected participation in Sunday Eucharist to the vocation of the laity to imbue the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel.
In this he set forth for us all what it means “to belong more deeply” to Jesus Christ and His Church. Through a movement of the spirit to a more profound awareness of the life of Christ expressed in our Sunday worship, the lay faithful will be empowered to make their witness to the world an ever more dynamic force to change the society and introduce Gospel values and the principles of Church teaching as guidelines for a healthy society that truly serves the common good.
The Holy Father closed by reminding us bishops that all the faithful of the Church, and especially young people, have a right to “hear clearly the Church’s teaching.” That means that not only do we bishops have to fulfill our roles to teach, sanctify and govern the Church. It means we all must eagerly seek together to “recover a shared vision and sense of mission by the entire Catholic community.”
As we continue to implement the new translation at our daily and Sunday Masses, we must let the prayers of the liturgy become our prayers and the spirit of the liturgy give new strength and form to our witness. To belong more deeply to Christ and His Church means we belong more deeply to one another and thus become the witnesses the world needs for a new evangelization. This past sunny Saturday morning in Rome, we bishops heard our Holy Father’s message and received the promise of his prayers for all of us along with his blessing that we be the Church of Jesus Christ here on Long Island.