Gatherings boost a heavy spirit
Category: From the Bishop
Last night at the 9 p.m. Eucharistic Liturgy at St. John Fisher College, I told the students and their friends that I was particularly happy to be with them. That was because I felt a heaviness of spirit because of the war in Iraq, and longed for the hope and encouragement I always find when I encounter the faith of the young.
In the event, my hopes were realized -- and more. By their presence, song and quiet prayer they helped me put my concerns in perspective and reminded me that, notwithstanding the horrors of this or any war, there is much that is hopeful about life; much to be celebrated.
It was as though they were an immediate answer to a phrase in the opening prayer, " … when I grow discouraged because of my failures help me to remember your love.”
That brief moment of clearer perspective came at the end of a long week in which the attention of our nation has been riveted on Iraq, and the prayers of the nation have been raised for as speedy a resolution of this conflict as is possible.
I was in Washington for a meeting of the Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops when battle was joined. All of our prayer through those days expressed our thirst for peace and for the safety of all.
On Wednesday evening, we all joined in a Eucharistic Liturgy at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The presider and preacher on that occasion was Bishop Wilton Gregory, Bishop of Belleville, Ill., and president of the USCCB.
Our war-related activity included more than prayer. The Administrative Committee approved a framework response to concerns generated by the conflict for the use of anyone who might find it helpful. We also expressed our encouragement and support of Bishop Gregory, who issued a presidential statement about the conflict.
If the young people at St. John Fisher were a boost to the spirit in these early days of armed conflict, they were certainly not the only ones. Saturday evening, Bishop Sheen Ecumenical Housing Foundation celebrated its 35th anniversary with a gala dinner at the Monroe Country Club. The proceeds from the evening will be applied to Sheen’s Emergency Home Repair Program. For 35 years this wonderful foundation has provided safe, decent housing for low-income families and services in an effort to promote their sense of self-worth and dignity.
The Friends of Sheen who gathered are a committed and generous group whose quiet service over the years has changed the lives of many families in this part of New York state. It was good to be in their company for a night of celebration and thanksgiving.
All of that would have been enough. But, I must confess that, being a longtime Buffalo Bills fan, the presence and thoughtful speech of former Bills coach and Football Hall of Fame member Marv Levy brought an even greater measure of delight to an already pleasurable gathering.
Lastly, I mention a continued awareness of those preparing for the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil as tremendous signs of hope and encouragement in our midst. It is a great consolation to know that they want to share the life of our community, and a great encouragement that they will strengthen us with their faith and their desire to serve others in the name of Christ. I often think of the invitation to us in the community in the Rite of Election to hold the elect “in our prayer and affection as we prepare for the Easter feast.”
As we move more deeply into the season of Lent I hope that, while we continue to pray for our catechumens and candidates, we will also pray for one another that we will be open to the continuing conversion and renewal of heart which is God’s constant call to all of us.
Peace to all.