Rochester bishop calls for peace, unity and charity
and sisters in Christ:
In order to meet the deadline for submission of this article for the November issue of the Catholic Courier, I am writing prior to Election Day, November 3. I pray that following the elections we will see a cooperative spirit among all elected officials and the citizenry to create a peaceful, respectful and civil climate that respects the rights and dignity of every person, particularly as we have just completed in October, Respect Life Month.
In his recent encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis quotes the words of Paul Ricoeur from his work Histoire et Verité: “… private life cannot exist unless it is protected by public order. A domestic hearth has no real warmth unless it is safeguarded by law, by a state of tranquility founded on law, and enjoys a minimum of wellbeing ensured by the division of labor, commercial exchange, social justice and political citizenship” (No. 164).
I pray that in the days ahead we act responsibly to create for our children a culture in which they are protected, cared for and inspired by the good works and lived faith of the adult world. I pray that violence and acts of inhumanity will cease with the realization that any just cause must have enshrined in its activities respect, charity, civility and truth, which produce positive results. Once again in Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis writes: “Religious convictions about the sacred meaning of human life permit us ‘to recognize the fundamental values of our common humanity, values in the name of which we can and must cooperate, build and dialogue, pardon and grow; this will allow different voices to unite in creating a melody of sublime nobility and beauty, instead of fanatical cries of hatred’” (No. 283).
Perhaps we can begin creating this positive image by reflecting upon the Solemnity of All Saints celebrated on November 1. On this day we recall the countless number of persons, who while not officially proclaimed saints by the Church, led good and holy lives in imitation of the Beatitudes, which I referenced in my October article. I think of parents who are making so many sacrifices on behalf of their children during this pandemic. I think also of teachers continuing the education of our children by making accommodations to keep them healthy. I also continue to express gratitude for those in the medical, health care and scientific fields who are working tirelessly to find a morally licit cure for the virus, as well as caring for our sick and suffering brothers and sisters. Really, people from all walks of life are using their particular skills and expertise to help their communities navigate through these turbulent waters. I am most grateful to our pastors, parochial administrators, pastoral administrators, parochial vicars, parish staffs and volunteers, all working so diligently to maintain parish life and make available the sacraments and Holy Mass.
Such dedication manifested by God’s people over the years forms the litany of saints commemorated on All Saints Day, as well as the souls in purgatory for whom we pray on the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, All Souls Day, on November 2, praying that our deceased loved ones by their faith and labors will merit to live with God eternally.
These two liturgical celebrations remind us that our life’s goal is to reach our natural homeland, the heavenly Jerusalem. These feasts link earth and heaven. So it is that our final goal should cause us to rise above partisan politics and agendas and as God’s children work together to seek the truth, the good, the holy, which all reach their perfection in Christ Jesus.
Quoting St. John Paul II’s encyclical letter Centesimus Annus, Pope Francis reminds us: “I wish to cite the following memorable statement: ‘If there is no transcendent truth, in obedience to which man achieves his full identity, then there is no sure principle for guaranteeing just relations between people. Their self-interest as a class, group or nation would inevitably set them in opposition to one another. If one does not acknowledge transcendent truth, then the force of power takes over, and each person tends to make full use of the means at his disposal in order to impose his own interests or his own opinion, with no regard for the rights of others… The root of modern totalitarianism is to be found in the denial of the transcendent dignity of the human person who, as the visible image of the invisible God, is therefore by his very nature the subject of rights that no one may violate – no individual, group, class, nation or state. Not even the majority of the social body may violate these rights, by going against the minority’” (Fratelli Tutti, No. 273).
It is our relationship with Jesus in every conceivable circumstance that gives us the reason to be grateful. Gratitude to God is the essence of Thanksgiving, which we will celebrate on November 26. No doubt our observance of Thanksgiving will be different this year, but these differences do not diminish our relationship with the Lord or the gratitude for all people of good will who are helping us to carry this pandemic cross.
United with our ancestors in faith, those who now dwell in the halls of heaven, and praying that all in positions of leadership exercise their office with humility, charity and love for the truth, I remain
Devotedly yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend
Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester