During his eight years as shepherd of the Diocese of Burlington, Vt., Bishop Salvatore R. Matano frequently penned communications to the faithful in his diocese in order to help them understand topics ranging from papal documents to church teachings on such topics as physician-assisted suicide or gay marriage. Below are excerpts from some of his writings:
On the Diocese of Burlington’s Pastoral Plan, March 2006:
“In addition, I am giving our vocation program very serious consideration. We are blessed with very good candidates for the priesthood but their numbers must be greatly increased. It is the duty of every Catholic to promote, nurture and encourage priestly vocations. When the question is asked in a parish needing a priest replacement, ‘Who will be coming to us?’, I must ask the corresponding question: ‘When was the last time that the parish sent a young man to the seminary?’ Indeed, I appreciate the many lay ministries that function in our Diocese, but these are not alternatives to the priesthood. We cannot operate as if the priesthood were to be phased out of the Catholic Church. Simply put, without the Most Holy Eucharist the Catholic Church ceases to exist and the Holy Eucharist can only be effected through the priesthood. In my visits throughout the Diocese, I have come to share the feeling of many of our good people who shudder to think of Sunday Services without a priest. This can sometimes unintentionally result in a limited presence of the Catholic Church in that locality. Granted, in some places it is absolutely necessary, but I hope we have not reached that point in this diocese.
“In implementing this Plan, it will be necessary for us all to make some changes in our routine. In certain instances, people may have to travel further in order to attend Mass or alter their schedules. But the question to be asked is this: ‘Is it worth the inconvenience?’ I would hope the answer is a resounding, ‘Yes!’ It would indeed seem worth any inconvenience in order to receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. …
“Perhaps the Lord has deemed it necessary for us to undergo a purification in order to identify more intimately with the cross of Christ which ultimately leads to resurrection. Throughout these last very challenging decades, we have come to appreciate that we are in fact a pilgrim Church, a Church constantly in need of perfecting and purifying itself. While the Church in its integrity is the bride of Christ and perfect in those sacraments given to her by Christ, her members, all of us, remain a struggling people who do our best but sometimes we fail. Failure takes place on every level; none of us is exempt from the human condition. Yet in our failures we can draw strength. In our weakest moments, at those low points in our lives, we see the need for Jesus and are consoled by His willingness to forgive us. …
“I am confident that we will experience a renewed and vibrant faith. But we must work together. Individual agendas must be viewed in the broader picture of serving the common good.”
From “Gift of Life, Life Eternal: The Most Holy Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” August 2006:
“Our belief in the real presence of Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity, the very One Whom we receive in Holy Communion, is what truly identifies us as Catholics, firmly uniting us with our ancestors in the faith who first celebrated the Eucharist in the very shadow of Christ’s earthly ministry. Realizing this extra ordinary and supernatural reality, certain demands and responsibilities are placed upon us. What then are these responsibilities placed upon the Catholic community in its worship of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament?
“First and foremost, it means faithfully attending Holy Mass every weekend: not twice or three times a month but every weekend; not only when Religious Instructions are conducted during the academic year but throughout the entire year. Deliberately to ignore the personal invitation of Jesus to be with Him and to partake of His body, blood, soul and divinity in Holy Communion is, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, ‘a grave sin’ (No. 2181). If we can say ‘no’ to Jesus, how easy it becomes to say no to any person or institution and to break or dishonor any commitment. All that we do as Catholics stems from our attachment to the Eucharist.”
Reflections on Pope Benedict XVI’s Sacramentum Caritatis (Sacrament of Love), March 2007:
“In our own journey of faith, we too search for truth and for love. Our quest in order to be complete must lead to the Eucharist. Who we are, who we hope to be, is defined by the Eucharist. …
“Thus, our Holy Father points out that everything we do must be motivated by our union with Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist: how we live, the decisions we make, how we establish our priorities, our moral code of conduct, our relationships with others, and the list is endless, for indeed we have become the bearers of Christ!”
Statement on marriage as a partnership between a man and a woman, July 2007:
“This core teaching, which we believe to be rooted in God, does not permit the Church to give an alternate definition of marriage. …
“At the same time, the Church is called to demonstrate true concern for all peoples, especially those who suffer and face great challenges in life. So many people in different circumstances carry heavy crosses. The Church, in imitation of its cornerstone, Jesus Christ, seeks to be compassionate and empathetic to all in need of support and encouragement in this life’s journey. Likewise, also in imitation of Jesus, the Church must defend and uphold His teachings which do not originate from human uncertainty but rather are of divine origin. For the Church to be ambiguous or vague about its creed would be a grave injustice to those whom it seeks to serve in fidelity to the Gospel. Clarity in teaching is not meant to be harsh or threatening, but to place before us the message of Jesus, which challenges us to follow Him even in the very difficult moments of our life.”
Reflections on the 2009-10 Year of the Priest, May 2009:
“During this year, we priests, with the prayerful support of our deacons, religious and laity, are called to rededicate our lives to the Eternal High Priest and to contemplate how we, who act ‘in persona Christi,’ are called to bring His presence into the world. …
“My brothers and sisters, on the day that we priests received the gift of Christ’s own priesthood, we promised our lives in sacramental service to Jesus, His Church, and to you. Pray for us priests that despite our human failures and weaknesses, we may be the Lord’s instruments in bringing you ever more close to His divine love, to His heart, which ‘has never ceased to beat with love for all who call upon His name’ (Preface of the Sacred Heart).”
Reflections on Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), June 2009:
“Throughout our lives, we come to realize a fundamental reality: that we show concern and love for another person when we speak the truth to that person, when we respect the other to the extent that we are honest. Can a husband and wife profess love for each other while not being honest with one another? That lack of trust would certainly corrode the marriage!
“And so it is in our common efforts locally, nationally and on the global scale, truth must pervade all our initiatives and endeavors. Pope Benedict XVI underlines the preeminent need to know the Truth, which gives birth to charity. Our Holy Father clearly demonstrates that the Absolute Truth, God, sent His Son Jesus into the world to become the visible incarnation of the love that lives within the Trinity and to have this love shared with all humanity. …
“In sum, Pope Benedict is calling upon all persons of goodwill to work together; the Holy Father is appealing to persons of faith to allow that faith to be our guide in meeting the social, cultural economic, anthropological and spiritual needs of our age. We are being challenged by that voice once again crying out in the desert, beseeching us to listen to the voice of God rather than to the rabble; to follow the only path that frees the spirit and gives peace, the path of Truth.”
Statement regarding “doctor-prescribed death,” December 2010:
“The precious life of the new-born child is the same precious life of the old and the frail, the weak and the suffering, the ill and the infirm, the distraught and the sorrowful. As we care for the child so must we care for all persons in the vast spectrum of life. When we subjectively determine when life begins and ends, when it is viable or not, when it is too burdensome to endure, we begin a path toward self-destruction. Life is no longer precious, but just another commodity in the business of living. Relativism becomes the absolute and even the value of life itself is questioned.
“Legislation promoting death as a ‘treatment option’ for the vulnerable has been and continues to be advanced in Vermont under the guise of offering patients ‘choice and control at the end of life.’ It asks those in the medical profession, which is a vocation dedicated to the service of life, to destroy the very lives they have pledged to save and to comfort at life’s most critical moments. How can anyone place such a heavy and unjust burden on the shoulders of others? …
“Clearly, then, this is not a Catholic issue, it is a human rights issue.”
Pastoral letter on the 2012-13 Year of Faith, September 2012:
“While each day is a day of faith forming our own years of faith, our Holy Father has asked that the Year of Faith emphasize a rediscovering of the truths entrusted to the Church by her founder, Jesus Christ. It is a moment of intensified catechesis and evangelization.
“At the heart of this catechesis, there is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which explains in detail what we believe as the community of faith, the Church, called into existence by her bridegroom, Christ the Lord. Over the last several years, the clarity of ecclesial teachings has been clouded over by misinterpretations, erroneous perceptions and incorrect accommodations. In some instances, the content of faith, our credo, has lacked substance and depth in teaching and presenting the Catholic faith. …
“There is, then, no question that we must rediscover the pearl of a great price, our Catholic faith, for how shall we love Him, unless we know Him.
“Let us then consider the essential and practical ways and places to celebrate the Year of Faith. First, let us recognize that we are not creating the faith, we are rediscovering it; we are taking away the clouds that hide the content and conceal the face of God; we are picking up the Book, the Holy Gospels, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to read, meditate upon and draw into our minds and hearts their message, their truth.”