My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
During this month of November, the church particularly draws our attention to our deceased loved ones and asks that we unite in praying that the Lord grant to them eternal peace and eternal life in His abiding presence. We especially bring to prayer those whose lives were lost in storms, fires, natural disasters and incredible acts of violence and inhumanity. We pray for their loved ones who mourn their loss with these consoling words of Holy Scripture: “The souls of the just are in the hands of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace” (Book of Wisdom 3:1).
During this same month we also gather with families and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. I am so very grateful for your generosity and prayers extended to our sisters and brothers devastated by the storms, hurricanes and earthquakes that have struck in so many places, each day bringing another sad occurrence creating a litany of suffering. You have responded so generously.
I am truly thankful for your ongoing prayers and efforts to work for peace in a world grown so violent and forgetting the words of Jesus Himself: “I give you a new commandment: Love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other” (John 13:34). But I believe you have taken these words to heart in our homes, parishes, schools, religious education programs and communities.
I am grateful for the many outreach ministries to those coming to our shores to build a new life, many seeking refuge from persecution and severe hardship, and recognizing in them the person of Jesus. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, in prison and you visited me‚Ä¶ Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:35-36; 40).
As we celebrate the Year of the Eucharist in concert with the 150th anniversary of the foundation of our Diocese, I am extremely thankful for the response, once again, of our parishes, schools, religious education programs and apostolates for their initiatives to promote a renewed devotion to Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament and the attention we give to the reverent celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
On his 90th birthday, Benedict XVI was presented a copy of the Russian edition of his volume on the liturgy, Theology of the Liturgy, from his complete works, given by the Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion. Benedict XVI himself wrote the forward for the Russian edition, in which he said: “‘Let nothing be preferred to the sacred liturgy.’ With these words in his Rule (43:3), St. Benedict established the absolute priority of the sacred liturgy over any other task of monastic life. In the consciousness of the people of today, the things of God and thus of the liturgy do not appear at all urgent ‚Ä¶ The deepest cause of the crisis that has upset the Church lies in the obscuring of the priority of God in the liturgy” (Translation by Anthony Ruff, O.S.B.).
In our Year of the Eucharist, as a diocesan family, we seek to make the Eucharistic Christ clearly visible in worship, in pastoral activities, in educating our youth, in our outreach to the poor, the victims of violence, oppression and hatred, always realizing: “If God is no longer important, the criteria for establishing what is important are displaced. Humans, in putting aside God, submit themselves to the constraints that make them the slave of material forces and thus at odds with their dignity” (Ibid.).
During this month of November as we contemplate God’s gift of life, which culminates in our eternal life with Him, it is indeed truly fitting that we render thanks for the supernatural gift of the Most Holy Eucharist, which sustains us along life’s journey, a journey mingled with joy and sorrow, hope and disappointment, success and tragedy, peace and discord, love and its evil nemesis vengeance. Our lives are filled with challenges, both ordinary and extraordinary, all of which beg the accompaniment of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Pope Francis encourages us in these words: “God makes Himself close to us; in the sacrifice of the cross, He humbles Himself, entering the darkness of death to give us His life, which overcomes evil, selfishness, and death. Jesus ‚Ä¶ gives Himself to us in the Eucharist, shares in our journey; indeed, He makes Himself food, the true food which sustains our life also in moments when the road becomes hard going and obstacles slow our steps. And in the Eucharist, the Lord makes us walk on His road ‚Ä¶ for the power of God — which is the power of love — comes down into our poverty to transform it” (Pope Francis Speaks to Our Hearts, ¬©2013, The Word Among Us Press, p. 32.).
I urge you to attend Holy Mass on Thanksgiving Day and bring to prayer our brothers and sisters suffering the aftermath of natural disasters and horrific acts of violence — families that will gather with heavy hearts mourning the loss of loved ones and seeking to rebuild their lives after suffering the loss of homes, jobs and communities. How can we forget them? Bring them to the House of the Lord united in prayer.
Invoking the intercession of Our Mother Mary and our diocesan patron, St. John Fisher, and assuring you of my prayers for a blessed and happy Thanksgiving, I remain
Devotedly yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend
+ Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester