ROCHESTER — On the memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano asked for their intercession to bring an end to violence.
Bishop Matano offered a diocesan Mass for Peace July 26 at Sacred Heart Cathedral as a prayerful response in light of recent violence that has plagued the City of Rochester and the surrounding community.
Recently, Rochester made national headlines, as the murder per capita in the city has exceeded that of Chicago, which has been known as one of the country’s most violent large cities. In Rochester, 40 people have been murdered in 2021, according to public data posted by the Rochester Police Department. There also have been 189 shootings since July 26, 2020, including a shooting that occurred outside St. Monica Church on Genesee Street June 25.
Bishop Matano began his homily during the Mass for Peace speaking about what is known of the lives of Sts. Joachim and Anne, whose feast was celebrated July 26. The bishop told the faithful at the cathedral that the lives of Jesus and Sts. Joachim, Anne, Joseph and Mary were lives that knew violence and real suffering, yet what sustained them in their suffering was their deep and profound faith.
“If we want the violence plaguing our streets to end, the voice of God must be heard, loud and clear, not only in churches, but in our streets, in our families, in our schools, and even in our legislatures. The separation of church and state was never meant to be a separation of God from his people,” Bishop Matano said in his homily.
“Our families, schools, legislatures and service agencies must speak of the common good, where we make sacrifices on behalf of others; respect the property of others; cooperate with just authority; and use the gifts and talents that God has given to us to help one another,” he added.
While state, local and national governments speak of reform to bring an end to the violence, this also is the time for citizens to examine their own conduct and how they are holding themselves accountable in ensuring that peace is restored.
“Each of us is not exonerated from the task of being good citizens, who understand the law as a vehicle to achieve peace and tranquility among all peoples,” Bishop Matano said.
In reference to the liturgy’s first reading from the Book of Exodus, which described Moses descending Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, Bishop Matano said, “The Ten Commandments are quite precise and quite real, and truly a map for societies to learn how to live in peace and tranquility, to keep the two great commandments: to love God and to love our neighbor.”
With the present violence in our streets, now is the time to make the changes, already overdue, Bishop Matano added.
“It is indeed a time of intense prayer,” he said.
Along with more than a dozen diocesan priests, deacons, women religious and members of the Knights of Columbus, Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode and Brighton Police Department Capt. Michael DeSain also were in attendance representing members of local law enforcement. While Bishop Matano was grateful for the people gathered at the cathedral for Mass, he also noted the many empty seats.
“Where are the others? In a diocese this size, can we not fill a cathedral in prayer in such desperate times?” Bishop Matano asked in his homily. “Have we come to a time in our history where prayer is so accidental to who we are? Prayer is the heart and center of reconciliation. Where are the others? We can only pray that through the sincerity of our worship here tonight that their hearts are indeed touched by God.”
“Through the prayers we offer tonight, may the most hardened of hearts now receive the Sacred Heart of Christ, and through this experience with Jesus, which is the intention of this Mass, may peace again flourish in our streets, our children be safe, and those who dedicate their own lives to keep us free and safe be protected also from all harm,” he added.
At the Exchange of Peace, Bishop Matano observed a moment of silence for all who have suffered from violence. Before the final blessing of the Mass, Bishop Matano asked those gathered to continue praying for peace.
“Every day is a day of praying for peace,” he said.