November 24, 2010| The Long Island Catholic Vol. 49, No. 31 | BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY
This is that special American moment when the whole nation pauses to say thanks to God for the many blessings that are ours. I know there are some who will want to keep God out of it. We will always have them. But the original inspiration for a Day of Thanksgiving was without doubt focused on God who, the Pilgrims devoutly believed, had shown his wondrous deeds (Mirabilia Dei) in their calling to and their flourishing in this new land as in their survival as his Chosen elect. God was a central part of daily life in the struggling colonies, sometimes obsessively so. But that God was and always will be the giver of all that is good meant that the recipients, the Pilgrims, all Americans, you and I, have a responsibility and obligation (The Pilgrims liked those two words) to render thanks to God who created us and “who gave being to all things that are” (as Harvard University declared in 1935 at their 300th anniversary).
For a moment put down this column of mine and stop and think of some of the blessings for which you are thankful. That’s right. Stop reading. Close your eyes and reflect! .......
Like you and perhaps all of us, I think first of family, of faith, of friends. I have very special reasons to be grateful and thankful to God for the gift of priesthood, for the call to the episcopate, for the mission the Holy Father gave me by sending me here to be your pastor and shepherd. Not a day goes by that I do not thank God for the priests of this diocese. I see them as my special brothers to whom I owe so much and on whom I depend, without whom my mission would be impossible.
I thank God for all of you whom I am coming to know more and more. You lived with me through the tragedy of September 11 and the horrific pain of the sex abuse scandal. Yet you did not let your trust in God and your fidelity to the Church be dimmed by the hatred others espoused, by the anger others let consume them. Instead you prayed with us and you supported your bishop and priests as we all worked together to put into place the safeguards that continue to serve as we seek to be ever vigilant, knowing what the John Jay Study will show us when it is published a few months from now. We, like our whole society, suffered from an epidemic of sexual aberrations in the sixties and seventies. It reached its apogee around 1975-79 and has declined ever since. It was a sociological “epidemic,” an epidemic that all studies indicate will not recur in our lifetime. I am thankful that this is true. But I am even more thankful that all of us in the Church are committed to being ever vigilant, using all the available means at our disposal to protect children and young people and pray and work so that the Church will be what she should be, a safe haven for every child, teenager and adult.
That brings me to my thanksgiving for the young people of our parishes and schools. What a joy to visit them in school as I did this Tuesday at Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Syosset where I celebrate a Thanksgiving liturgy with the whole school every year. That extends to the joy of being with youth I visit throughout the year at all 10 of our Catholic diocesan and private high schools. Our young people are a joy and a hope and we pray God to keep them always in his loving care.
This past year there were so many parish events that showed me time and again a diocese that is healthy and alive, faith-filled and hope-sustained, witnessing Christ’s love within the community of faith and beyond to the wider communities of Long Island. Parish anniversaries, new parish churches, special parish events, fiftieth anniversary of marriage Masses, ordination of permanent deacons and two ordinations first of three and then of a fourth new priests for our diocese.
When I visit the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, I see seminarians, good, solid men, pursuing their dream to be priests and eagerly living a life that will form them humanly, spiritually, academically and pastorally into good and holy priests for our diocese. The seminary is where I also encounter the good parish men who are in the formation program for the permanent diaconate, where the laity pursue graduate degrees in theology and pastoral ministry, where retreats are held and many a priest or parish group spends a day in prayer and reflection. The seminary is “Mary’s House” for our diocese and she is the ever loving mother who welcomes us there and “walks beside us” helping us along the way of our shared journey of faith.
We have our challenges and for these too I am grateful because they test our faith and solidify our hope. They give us the many opportunities we all need to show our love for one another. There are many parishes struggling to keep afloat but we now have in place new methods and new safeguards to help those parishes and to encourage more sharing among our parishes.
This coming year we will be preparing to implement the New Roman Missal, the translation of the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal. You will be hearing much about this. What I want to stress, as I will be in an Advent/Christmas Pastoral Letter, is the spirit of expectation and joy with which we can make this celebration of the Eucharist, beginning Advent 2011, a deeper and more spirit-filled expression of our faith as we seek to belong more deeply to the Lord in His Church.
Strengthened by the Sunday Mass and the life of the sacraments, we are the Body of Christ and we give witness to our faith by our care for others, especially the weak and vulnerable, the poor and the marginalized. We are a Church of stewardship that truly contributes time and talent for the good of all the communities of Long Island.
Thank you God. Thank you, all the members of this Church. May we pray for one another and support one another on the most awesome journey of all, the spiritual journey of faith in and with Christ the Lord.