Synodal path reveals common ground

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
So, what’s new with the Synod on Synodality? Toward the end of 2021 Pope Francis had directed the church throughout the world to engage in the process we have come to know as the Synod.

Throughout 2022 each (arch)diocese, in one arrangement or another, responded to the pope’s vision and directive, and launched the process under the gaze of the Holy Spirit, producing a synthesis of the People of God’s joys and hopes and wounds along with a profound desire for all of what Jesus desired for his church.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

In turn, nearly 200 (arch)dioceses in the United States by region, like streams of water, combined to form a flowing river in the National Synthesis document that reflects the work of approximately 700,000 Catholics. This was the inspired work of 2022.

Currently, all countries have entered into the Continental Stage and the United States is partnered with Canada. The goal is that further prayer and dialogue will refine the voices of nearly one million Catholics in the North American neighbors. During January several representatives from the Diocese of Jackson took part in the Continental Stage. What is produced at this level will go on to Rome for additional dialogue and discernment in anticipation of Pope Francis’ written Apostolic Exhortation in 2024, the fruit of the worldwide Synod.

The Catholic Church in the United States and in Canada are at the center of “western culture” a reality that offers opportunities and challenges that vary significantly from other parts of the world. The links to each country’s National Synthesis are available for your edification to better appreciate the common themes with our neighbors to the north, and also the pronounced differences.

Canada’s overall population is significantly less than the United States and its Catholic population mirrors this reality. There is a large indigenous population in western Canada, and Pope Francis modeled the spirit of Synodality when he visited last year to be with those so unjustly treated in their boarding schools, in order to listen, to pray, to honor their culture and to express his and the church’s sorrow over the pain that still afflicts the people.

On the other hand, the Province of Quebec in the East is extremely secular and “there is a desire for urgent change in order to regain – or preserve – what remains of the church’s relevance and mission.”
To one degree or another the Catholic Church in each country is responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to gather in prayer, discernment and respectful dialogue in order to see, to value the things that truly matter and to serve with the mind and heart of Jesus Christ.

The Synodal path has revealed the common ground between each of our countries. As Pope Francis modeled in Canada among the Indigenous, there was a high premium in both National Syntheses placed on the virtue of listening. At the core of being a welcoming church is a listening heart that takes a long and loving look at what is real.

“The value of simply listening is a clear message of the Synod process. People must be able to speak honestly on even the most controversial topics without fear of rejection. We must be open to new ideas and new ways of doing thing, even as we remain faithful to the church’s tradition. Faith formation can help us develop greater understanding and grow in trusting the Holy Spirit who is at work in every place and time.” (U.S. Synthesis)

Replete throughout the National Syntheses is the call for the church to fulfill the promise of Jesus for life in abundance. There ought to be far greater collaboration between the ordained and the laity in order to continue to build a culture of trust and transparency between the church’s leadership and the faithful. Reconciling the wounds of the past, reaching out to the alienated, accompanying those on the margins of society, and heeding the call to repentance and conversion demonstrate that the Kingdom of God is in our midst.

“As Pope Francis frequently reminds us, Synodality is not a one-time event, but an invitation to an ongoing style of church life. We have taken the first steps of this path, and we have learned much; we have more to learn and more to do as witnesses of Christ Jesus in our time.” (Intro, U.S. Synthesis)

Editor’s Note: For the Diocese Synod Synthesis, U.S. National Synod Synthesis and document on the Continental Stage of the Synod, visit www.jacksondiocese.org/synod.

El camino sinodal revela un terreno común

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Entonces, ¿qué hay de nuevo en el Sínodo sobre la Sinodalidad? Hacia fines de 2021, el Papa Francisco había ordenado a la iglesia de todo el mundo que participara en el proceso que conocemos como el Sínodo.

A lo largo de 2022 cada diócesis y arquidiócesis, en una disposición u otra, respondió a la visión y directiva del Papa, puso en marcha el proceso bajo la mirada del Espíritu Santo y se produjo una síntesis de las alegrías y esperanzas y heridas del Pueblo de Dios, junto con un profundo deseo por todo lo que Jesús anhelaba para su iglesia.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

A su vez, casi 200 arquidiócesis en los Estados Unidos por región, como corrientes de agua, se combinaron para formar un río que fluye en el documento de Síntesis Nacional que refleja el trabajo de aproximadamente 700,000 católicos. Este fue el trabajo inspirado de 2022.

Actualmente, todos los países han entrado en la Etapa Continental y Estados Unidos está asociado con Canadá. El objetivo es que más oración y diálogo refinarán las voces de casi un millón de católicos en los vecinos de América del Norte. Durante enero varios representantes de la Diócesis de Jackson participaron en el Escenario Continental. Lo que se produzca a este nivel irá a Roma para diálogo adicional y discernimiento, en anticipación a la Exhortación Apostólica escrita del Papa Francisco en 2024, fruto del Sínodo mundial.
La Iglesia Católica en los Estados Unidos y en Canadá están en el centro de la “cultura occidental”, una realidad que ofrece oportunidades y desafíos que varían significativamente de otras partes del mundo. Los enlaces a la Síntesis Nacional de cada país están disponibles para su edificación para apreciar mejor los temas comunes con nuestros vecinos del norte, y también las diferencias pronunciadas.

La población total de Canadá es significativamente menor que la de Estados Unidos y su población católica refleja esta realidad. Hay una gran población indígena en el oeste de Canadá, y el Papa Francisco modeló el espíritu de sinodalidad cuando visitó el año pasado para estar con aquellos que son tratados tan injustamente en sus internados, para escuchar, orar, honrar su cultura y expresar su dolor y el de la iglesia por el dolor que aún aflige al pueblo.

Por otro lado, la Provincia de Quebec en el Este es extremadamente secular y “hay un deseo de cambio urgente para recuperar, o preservar, lo que queda de relevancia y misión de la iglesia”.

En un grado u otro la Iglesia Católica en cada país está respondiendo a los impulsos del Espíritu Santo de reunirse en oración, discernimiento y diálogo respetuoso para ver, valorar las cosas que verdaderamente importan y servir con la mente y el corazón de Jesucristo.

El camino sinodal ha revelado el terreno común entre cada uno de nuestros países. Como el Papa Francisco modeló en Canadá entre los indígenas, hubo una gran importancia en ambas Síntesis Nacionales otorgadas a la virtud de escuchar. En el centro de ser una iglesia acogedora hay un corazón que escucha y mira con amor lo que es real.

“El valor de simplemente escuchar es un mensaje claro del proceso del Sínodo. Las personas deben poder hablar honestamente incluso sobre los temas más controvertidos sin temor al rechazo. Debemos estar abiertos a nuevas ideas y formas de hacer las cosas, aun cuando permanezcamos fieles a la tradición de la iglesia. La formación en la fe puede ayudarnos a desarrollar una mayor comprensión y crecer en la confianza en el Espíritu Santo que está obrando en todo lugar y tiempo”. (Síntesis de EE. UU.)

Repleto a lo largo de las Síntesis Nacionales está el llamado a la iglesia a cumplir la promesa de Jesús de una vida en abundancia. Debería haber una colaboración mucho mayor entre los ordenados y los laicos para continuar construyendo una cultura de confianza y transparencia entre el liderazgo de la iglesia y los fieles. Reconciliar las heridas del pasado, tender la mano a los marginados, acompañar a los marginados de la sociedad y atender el llamado al arrepentimiento y la conversión demuestra que el Reino de Dios está entre nosotros.

“Como el Papa Francisco nos recuerda con frecuencia, la sinodalidad no es un evento de una sola vez, sino una invitación a un estilo continuo de vida de la iglesia. Hemos dado los primeros pasos de este camino y hemos aprendido mucho; tenemos más que aprender y más que hacer como testigos de Cristo Jesús en nuestro tiempo.” (Introducción, Síntesis de EE. UU.)

Nota del Editor: Para encontrar la Síntesis del Sínodo Diocesano, Síntesis del Sínodo Nacional de Estados Unidos y los documentos del Estado Continental del Sínodo, por favor visite: www.jacksondiocese.org/synod.

Love for God’s Word

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

On the weekend of Jan. 21-22 the Catholic Church will mark for the fourth consecutive year, Sunday of the Word of God. Pope Francis dedicated the third Sunday in January on the feast of St. Jerome, Sept. 30, 2019, as such with his Apostolic Letter, Aperuit Illis taken from the Emmaus story when the two disciples recognized the risen Lord in the breaking of the bread and how with hearts burning, he “opened the Scriptures for them” as they walked along the road.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

We celebrated the culmination of the Christmas season last weekend with the feast of the Epiphany, the manifestation of Christ to the nations. The Magi in St. Matthew’s Gospel remain the pioneers for us as we seek our path in life, led by the star of God’s grace, into the presence of Jesus Christ.

A favorite Christmas card is the image of the Magi following the star with the caption, “The Wise still seek Him.” Their love for and study of the heavens led them into the presence of Christ. May our love for and study of the Word of God, a lamp for our feet, be the star that brings us into the presence of Jesus Christ, to adore, to open ourselves up in generosity, and to live with his mind and heart in this world. This encounter of worship and wisdom is God’s gift to us at the Eucharist, the source and summit of our life in Jesus Christ. The Word of God can open the eyes of faith to know the risen One in his Body and Blood upon the altar and in one another.

During this 60th anniversary year of the opening of Vatican II, let the timeless teaching of the Council reinvigorate in us the treasures of God’s Word, and the sacrament of the Eucharist. Sacrosantum Concilium, the exemplary document on the Mass, states splendidly that “the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the church.” (S.C.2) Likewise, “the Sacred Scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. Thus, to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture.”(24)

Dei Verbum (Word of God), the document on divine revelation, sought to restore a profound love for the sacred scriptures throughout the church. “The church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body.” (DV 21)

The daily reading and praying with the Word of God that is much more common today finds its impetus in Dei Verbum. “The sacred synod also earnestly and especially urges all the Christian faithful to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the “excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 3:8) St. Augustine sheds further light over the divine-human dialogue. “Your prayer is the word you speak to God. When you read the Bible, God speaks to you; when you pray, you speak to God.”

Finally, let us call forth the wisdom of Pope Benedict of happy memory who was present at the Second Vatican Council. “God’s word is given to us precisely to build communion, to unite us in the Truth along our path to God.

While it is a word addressed to each of us personally, it is also a word that builds community, that builds the church … For this reason, the privileged place for the prayerful reading of sacred Scripture is the liturgy, and particularly the Eucharist, in which as we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament, the word of God is present and at work in our midst.”

From personal experience over a long life seeking to know the living God, Benedict proposed that “the Word of God sustains us on our journey of penance and conversion, enables us to deepen our sense of belonging to the church, and helps us to grow in familiarity with God.”

As St. Ambrose puts it, “When we take up the sacred Scriptures in faith and read them with the church, we walk once more with God in the Garden.” May we encourage one another in our love for God’s Word, in season and out of season, and with special focus at this time of Eucharistic renewal in the church.

A photo of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI sits near the Tabernacle at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle after a Memorial Mass for the Repose of the Soul was celebrated by Bishop Joseph Kopacz on Thursday, Jan. 5. (Photo by Tereza Ma)

Statement from Bishop Kopacz on the passing
of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

(Jan. 1, 2023) – The Catholic Church throughout the world commends to God Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, one of her outstanding witnesses to the love of Jesus Christ, the Good News first announced by the Angel and the Heavenly Host to the Shepherds caring for their flocks.

From the center of the church in Rome for decades serving in critical ministries, culminating in the papacy, Pope Benedict was able to announce the Good News of the Gospel in many remarkable ways, and ultimately to care for his world-wide flock. The Gospel on the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God in the Christmas season portrays his life in exemplary fashion.

Like Mary he treasured the Lord in his arms and the wisdom of the Catholic Faith of nearly 2000 years. By the light of faith he followed the path of the Shepherds, glorifying and praising God, announcing the Good News and evangelizing all, in the church and in the world. He was a Good Shepherd after the heart of Jesus Christ, a faithful priest, prophet, and king, the marks of own Baptism whose legacy will endure in the church he cherished so dearly.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.

Declaración del obispo Kopacz sobre el fallecimiento del Papa emérito Benedicto XVI

(1 de enero de 2023) – La Iglesia Católica en todo el mundo encomienda el alma del Papa Emérito Benedicto XVI a Dios por ser uno de sus destacados testigos del amor de Jesucristo, la Buena Noticia anunciada por primera vez por el Ángel y de la Hostia Celestial a los Pastores cariñosos para con sus rebaños.

Desde el centro de la iglesia en Roma durante décadas sirviendo en ministerios críticos, que culminaron en el papado, el Papa Benedicto pudo anunciar las Buenas Nuevas del Evangelio de muchas maneras notables y, en última instancia, cuidar de su rebaño mundial. El Evangelio de la solemnidad de María Madre de Dios en el tiempo de Navidad retrata su vida de manera ejemplar.

Como María, atesoró al Señor en sus brazos y la sabiduría de la fe católica de casi 2000 años. A la luz de la fe, siguió el camino de los Pastores, glorificando y alabando a Dios, anunciando la Buena Noticia y evangelizando a todos, en la Iglesia y en el mundo. Fue un Buen Pastor según el corazón de Jesucristo, un sacerdote, profeta, rey fiel y que junto a las marcas de su propio bautismo es el legado que perdurará en la iglesia que tanto amaba.

Concédele el descanso eterno, oh Señor, y brille para él la luz perpetua.
Puede él descansar en Paz. Amén.

Que su alma y las almas de todos los fieles difuntos descansen en Paz. Amén.

“Los Sabios todavía lo Buscan”

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

El fin de semana del 21 al 22 de enero la Iglesia Católica celebrará por cuarto año consecutivo el Domingo de la Palabra de Dios.

El Papa Francisco dedicó el tercer domingo de enero a la fiesta de San Jerónimo, el 30 de septiembre de 2019, como tal con su Carta Apostólica, Aperuit Illis, tomada de la historia de Emaús cuando los dos discípulos reconocieron al Señor resucitado al partir el pan y cómo, con el corazón ardiendo, les “abrió las Escrituras” mientras caminaban por el camino.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

Celebramos la culminación de la temporada navideña el pasado fin de semana con la fiesta de la Epifanía, la manifestación de Cristo a las naciones. Los magos del Evangelio de San Mateo siguen siendo los pioneros para nosotros mientras buscamos nuestro camino en la vida, guiados por la estrella de la gracia de Dios, hacia la presencia de Jesucristo.

Una de las tarjetas navideñas favoritas es la imagen de los Reyes Magos siguiendo a la estrella con el título: “Los sabios todavía lo buscan”. Su amor y estudio de los cielos los llevó a la presencia de Cristo. Que nuestro amor y estudio de la Palabra de Dios, lámpara para nuestros pies, sea la estrella que nos lleve a la presencia de Jesucristo, para adorar, abrirnos en la generosidad y vivir con su mente y corazón en este mundo.

Este encuentro de adoración y sabiduría es el regalo de Dios para nosotros en la Eucaristía, la fuente y cumbre de nuestra vida en Jesucristo. La Palabra de Dios puede abrir los ojos de la fe para conocer al Resucitado en su Cuerpo y Sangre sobre el altar y en los demás.

Durante este año del 60 aniversario de la apertura del Vaticano II, que la enseñanza eterna del Concilio revitalice en nosotros los tesoros de la Palabra de Dios y el sacramento de la Eucaristía. Sacrosantum Concilium, el documento ejemplar sobre la Misa, afirma espléndidamente que “el divino sacrificio de la Eucaristía es el medio excepcional por el cual los fieles pueden expresar en sus vidas y manifestar a los demás el misterio de Cristo y la naturaleza real de la iglesia”. (S.C.2)

Asimismo, “la Sagrada Escritura es de la mayor importancia en la celebración de la liturgia. Por eso, para lograr la restauración, el progreso y la adaptación de la sagrada liturgia, es indispensable promover ese amor cálido y vivo por la Escritura.”(24)

El Obispo Joseph Kopacz ofreció una Misa en memoria del Papa Benedicto XVI al mediodia del 5 de enero, pocas horas después del funeral del Papa en Roma. El Papa Benedicto falleció el 31 de diciembre de 2022 a la edad de 95 años en su residencia en el Vaticano y fue sepultado en la cripta donde fueron enterrados dos Papas canonizados, su predecesor polaco, San Juan Pablo II y San Juan XXIII. (Foto de Tereza Ma)

Dei Verbum (Palabra de Dios), el documento sobre la revelación divina, buscó restaurar un profundo amor por las Sagradas Escrituras en toda la iglesia. “La Iglesia siempre ha venerado las divinas Escrituras como venera el cuerpo del Señor, ya que, especialmente en la sagrada liturgia, recibe y ofrece incesantemente a los fieles el pan de vida de la mesa, tanto de la palabra de Dios como del cuerpo de Cristo. ” (DV 21)

La lectura diaria y la oración con la Palabra de Dios, mucho más comunes hoy, encuentran su impulso en la Dei Verbum. “El sagrado sínodo también exhorta encarecida y especialmente a todos los fieles cristianos a aprender mediante la lectura frecuente de las divinas Escrituras el “excelente conocimiento de Jesucristo”. (Filipenses 3:8) San Agustín arroja más luz sobre el diálogo divino-humano. “Tu oración es la palabra que hablas a Dios. Cuando lees la Biblia, Dios te habla; cuando oras, le hablas a Dios”.

Finalmente, invoquemos la sabiduría del Papa Benedicto de feliz memoria que estuvo presente en el Concilio Vaticano II. “La palabra de Dios nos es dada precisamente para construir la comunión, para unirnos en la Verdad en nuestro camino hacia Dios.

Si bien es una palabra dirigida a cada uno de nosotros personalmente, es también una palabra que construye comunidad, que construye la iglesia … Por eso, el lugar privilegiado de la lectura orante de la Sagrada Escritura es la liturgia, y en particular la Eucaristía, en que mientras celebramos el Cuerpo y la Sangre de Cristo en el sacramento, la palabra de Dios está presente y obrando en medio de nosotros”.

A partir de la experiencia personal de una larga vida buscando conocer al Dios vivo, Benedicto propuso que “la Palabra de Dios nos sostiene en nuestro camino de penitencia y conversión, nos permite profundizar nuestro sentido de pertenencia a la iglesia y nos ayuda a crecer en familiaridad con Dios.”

Como dice San Ambrosio: “Cuando tomamos las Sagradas Escrituras con fe y las leemos con la iglesia, caminamos una vez más con Dios en el Jardín”. Que nos animemos unos a otros en nuestro amor por la Palabra de Dios, a tiempo y fuera de tiempo, y con un enfoque especial en este tiempo de renovación eucarística en la iglesia.

Dreams, center of salvation history

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, an experience of pure magic coming down from the heavens, settling on trees, lawns and Christmas scenes but not on roadways or sidewalks. This could be a reality in Jackson on Christmas day, but it’s too early to tell. However, there is no uncertainty that Jesus Christ is born once again into our lives through faith at Christmas. It is the stuff that dreams are made of – the Word made Flesh, the light coming into the world filled with grace and truth as pure gift. (John 1:14)

Dreams are at the center of salvation history in the Bible, especially in the Infancy narratives. Mary’s encounter with the Angel was more like a daytime vision or dream that progressed from confusion to certainty and peace, by God’s grace. (Luke 1:28-38) For Joseph the nighttime dream became his pathway to discern the will of God regarding Mary and the child that was not his own, but rather the One belonging to the whole world. (Matt 1:18-24)

The scriptures say that Joseph is a righteous man (Matt 1:22) in right relationship with God and others, especially with Mary. We can readily accept that he possessed a rich inner life of prayer, a discerning spirit and a purity of heart; the first beatitude, all of which God formed in him through faith in order to accomplish His will through Mary and Joseph in the plan of salvation.

Building upon last Sunday’s Gospel from St. Matthew, the dreams continued when Joseph was alerted to escape from the murderous rage of King Herod, (Matt 2:13) and then, forewarned once again to return from Egypt to Nazareth (Matt 2:20) where the Holy Family could finally settle down, allowing Jesus to grow in wisdom, knowledge and grace until the time of his public ministry.

The promptings of the Holy Spirit in the minds and hearts of all of us, asleep or awake, can be as impactful because these inspirations come from the mind and heart of Jesus Christ and the bosom of the Most Holy Trinity. But no different than Mary and Joseph, we understand that that the gifts we need at Christmas and every day of the year are purity of heart, humility, obedience to God’s will, and an abiding awareness that we are God’s children now, already having received the first installment of the promise of eternal life. (Eph 1:14)

Over the Advent season we were exhorted to prepare the way of the Lord, through prayer and repentance, to cultivate a discerning spirit to value the things that really matter, and through acts of loving service, justice and peace to make this world a better place. Like Mary and Joseph, we are called to dream with God.

Rejoice, as we joyfully celebrate the Lord’s birth, because God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to save us, (John 3:16) to draw us out of darkness into his own marvelous light. (1Peter 2:9) This is a dream come true, white Christmas or not, and with all of the heavenly hosts, let our voices resound with, “Glory to God in the Highest,” (Luke 2:14) and with Mary, let us proclaim, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46)

Merry Christmas!

PEARL – On Dec. 18, parishioners at St. Jude gathered for Christmas dinner, along with a Christmas Nativity play and choir performance. (Photo by Tereza)

Alégrate, Estamos llamados a soñar con Dios

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Estoy soñando con una Navidad blanca, una experiencia de pura magia que desciende del cielo, posándose en los árboles, el césped y las escenas navideñas, pero no en las carreteras ni en las aceras. Esto podría ser una realidad en Jackson el día de Navidad, pero es demasiado pronto para saberlo. Sin embargo, no hay duda que Jesucristo nace de nuevo en nuestras vidas a través de la fe en Navidad. Es la materia de la que están hechos los sueños: la Palabra hecha Carne, la luz que viene al mundo llena de gracia y verdad como puro regalo.” Aquel que es la Palabra se hizo hombre y vivió entre nosotros. Y hemos visto su gloria, la gloria que recibió del Padre, por ser su Hijo único, abundante en amor y verdad. (Juan 1:14)

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

Los sueños están en el centro de la historia de la salvación en la Biblia, especialmente en las narraciones de la Infancia. El encuentro de María con el Ángel fue más como una visión diurna o un sueño que progresó de la confusión a la certeza y la paz, por la gracia de Dios. (Lc 1,28-38) Para José, el sueño de la noche se convirtió en su camino para discernir la voluntad de Dios respecto a María y al niño que no era suyo, sino del mundo entero. (Mateo 1:18-24)

Las escrituras dicen que José es un hombre justo (Mateo 1:22) en la relación correcta con Dios y con los demás, especialmente con María. Podemos aceptar fácilmente que poseía una rica vida interior de oración, un espíritu de discernimiento y una pureza de corazón; la primera bienaventuranza, todo lo cual Dios formó en él por la fe, para cumplir su voluntad por medio de María y José en el plan de salvación.

Sobre la base del Evangelio del domingo pasado de San Mateo, los sueños continuaron cuando José fue alertado para escapar de la ira asesina del rey Herodes (Mateo 2:13) y luego, se le advirtió una vez más que regresara de Egipto a Nazaret (Mateo 2:20) donde la Sagrada Familia finalmente pudo establecerse, permitiendo que Jesús creciera en sabiduría, conocimiento y gracia hasta el momento de su ministerio público.

Los susurros del Espíritu Santo en la mente y el corazón de todos nosotros, dormidos o despiertos, pueden ser igualmente impactantes porque estas inspiraciones provienen de la mente y el corazón de Jesucristo y del seno de la Santísima Trinidad. Pero al igual que María y José, entendemos que los dones que necesitamos, en Navidad y todos los días del año, son la pureza de corazón, la humildad, la obediencia a la voluntad de Dios y una conciencia permanente de que somos hijos de Dios ahora, habiendo recibido ya la primera entrega de la promesa de la vida eterna. (Efesios 1:14)

Durante la temporada de Adviento se nos exhortó a preparar el camino del Señor, a través de la oración y el arrepentimiento, a cultivar un espíritu de discernimiento para valorar las cosas que realmente importan y, a través de actos de amoroso servicio, justicia y paz, para hacer de este mundo un mejor sitio. Como María y José, estamos llamados a soñar con Dios.

Alégrate, mientras celebramos con alegría el nacimiento del Señor, porque Dios amó tanto al mundo que envió a su Hijo único para salvarnos (Juan 3:16) para sacarnos de las tinieblas a su propia luz admirable. (1 Pedro 2:9)

Este es un sueño hecho realidad, seas blanca Navidad o no; y con todas las huestes celestiales, que nuestras voces resuenen con “Gloria a Dios en las alturas” (Lucas 2:14) y con María, proclamemos: “Mi alma alaba la grandeza del Señor; mi espíritu se alegra en Dios mi Salvador.”. (Lucas 1:46-47)

¡Feliz Navidad!
Merry Christmas!

Hymns of Advent, source of hope, inspiration

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

The season of Advent this year is perfectly balanced with four full weeks, and on this weekend we arrive at the half-way point celebrating Gaudete Sunday, an invitation to rejoice in the Lord.

St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians eloquently prepared the way of the Lord for that early Christian community, and for Christians in every age. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say: Rejoice! Let your kindness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything but present your needs to God in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving. Then the peace of God which is beyond all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

Joy and peace are part of the package of blessings from the Holy Spirit and are the fruits of our salvation in Jesus Christ which the Heavenly Hosts announced to all the world on the first Christmas night, and it has been our hope ever sense.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Following the Lord throughout the year we know that we cannot separate his birth from his suffering, death and resurrection. Yet, even on the night before he died, he prayed that his disciples would know his peace, the power that the world cannot give. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled; be not afraid.” (John 14:27) Upon arising from the dead the first words to his disciples huddled in fear were, “peace be with you” before showing them his hands and his side. (John 20:19)

In the joy of birth and in the sorrow of suffering and death the Lord assures us that his peace can stand guard over our hearts. This is a precious gift for those who are grieving over serious loss during these holy days or holidays. One can easily get more depressed or sorrowful when confronted with the expectation that it is a time to be merry or happy, like in “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” Even “Merry Christmas” can ring hollow if overcooked.

With Mary, our Blessed Mother, we are called to hold and be held by the Son of God and allow his peace to stand guard over our lives. We pray for one another that the peace of Christ which is beyond all understanding dispels the darkness of doubt and fear, grief and shame as the ultimate Christmas gift. May we be present to one another in a way that cuts through that which fades quickly to that place where the Lord dwells within us.

Whatever the circumstances of our lives, let us then continue to prepare the way for the Lord in ways that works for us. The hymns of Advent can be a source of hope and inspiration and in a particular way the church embraces the beloved hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” especially coming down the home stretch that carries the faithful to Christmas Eve.

This hymn contains the O Antiphons which represent the yearning of the people of Israel for the Messiah. The verses of the hymn are applied as the Gospel antiphons beginning on Dec. 17 and they can deepen in us a hunger for the Savior.

“O, come, O Wisdom from on high! O, come, O Lord of power and might! O, come, O Flower of Jesse’s stem! O, come, O Key of David! O, come O Radiant Dawn! O, come, O King of All the Nations! O come, O come, Emmanuel!” This hymn can easily be combined with the Advent wreath in our homes during the week before Christmas to prepare the way of the Lord.

At this point in time in Advent, the Blessed Mother points the way to come to her Son through faith. The feast of the Immaculate Conception and of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrate her love for the church and her singular role in God’s plan of salvation. The following is the prayer after Communion on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a fitting ending prayer for the column.

“Lord God, may the Body and Blood of your Son, which we receive in this sacrament, reconcile us always in your love; and may we who rejoice in Our Lady of Guadalupe live united and at peace in this world.”

MADISON – St. Francis parish hosted a special evening of worship and adoration for Advent with Catholic musician, John Finch and his band on Sunday, Dec. 4. (Photo by Melissa Smiley)

Bishop’s charter marks 20 years, church desires hope and healing

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
This year in the Catholic Church marks the 20th anniversary of the Dallas Charter, when the American Catholic Bishops through the charter document and its essential norms “promised to protect and pledged to heal,” committing the church to safe environments for our children, young people and their families.
Because of our sins and crimes, justly, as an organization, the church has been in the crucible, and the purification continues. Yet, the experience of the past twenty years has shown that an organization’s culture can be transformed when best practices are put in place and all in the organization are required to abide by them. In the church, this includes all the ordained, professed and baptized who work with children.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Over the past twenty years new allegations and actual proven cases of abuse are far and few between. Even one case is one too many, but we have learned how to protect in our church programs and gatherings. Moreover, the pledge to heal comes from the heart of Jesus Christ because we are his body, far more than an organization, who hunger and thirst for healing and peace for all who have been so unjustly harmed by wolves in sheep’s clothing. This Gospel imperative must be at the center of all that the church does on the road back to the abundant life Jesus promised to all believers.

For all in the church and in the world who are steadfast in their love for children’s safety and flourishing, we can rejoice in the recent declaration of the United Nations.

On Nov. 10, 2022, the General Assembly declared Nov. 18 as the World Day for the Prevention of, and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence. The resolution, which was sponsored by Sierra Leone and Nigeria and co-sponsored by more than 120 countries, was adopted by consensus and a bang of the gavel by the assembly’s acting president, which was greeted with loud applause. Following the action, H.E., Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See United Nations, New York addressed the Assembly expressing appreciation for the UN’s action, and the full support of the Vatican State for the newly adopted World Day.

Over 50 individuals including leaders of prominent child welfare and advocacy organizations, and survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA), including several who experienced abuse by clergy, joined H.E. Fatima Maada Bio, the First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, a survivor of child marriage, as she addressed the General Assembly urging action. “Child sexual abuse is a global public health crisis. We must acknowledge this problem, and take every necessary action to protect our children, especially our girls, from this tragic human condition.” Her eloquent, impassioned speech was greeted with a round of applause, and cheers from survivors in the gallery.

Mark Joseph Williams, an abuse survivor, speaks during a Nov. 15, 2022, session of the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

“Child sexual abuse is one of the greatest violations to human dignity, one can suffer,” said H.E. Ambassador Alhaji Fanday Turay. “The World Day for the Prevention of, and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence is a critical step in bringing institutional recognition to this horrific childhood trauma. Too many victims of child sexual abuse are suffering in shame and silence. Many live anguished lives. By adopting this Resolution, we can provide a platform for all nations and civil society to mobilize and take actions to protect children from this tragedy.”

“We promoted the World Day to increase awareness of the actions all governments can take to prevent abuse and bring healing to survivors,” said Dr. Jennifer Wortham, a researcher at Harvard who founded the Global Collaborative, the survivor led network that led the international advocacy campaign to launch the world day. Wortham’s brothers are clergy abuse survivors, and Wortham shared that they have struggled with the effects of their abuse for their entire lives. “The World Day will help my brothers and all survivors of child sexual violence to know that the world cares about them, that they matter, that what they experienced was unjust, and that healing is possible,” said Wortham.

Finally, the world has spoken, and this is a victory for us all,” said Mark Williams, clergy abuse survivor, and advisor to the Archdiocese of Newark. “This day has been extraordinary, I am filled with awe, and peace.” At the Bishop’s recent meeting in Baltimore, Williams addressed the assembled body along with Cardinal Joseph Tobin, his Archbishop of Newark, N.J. to encourage the bishops that the Lord can make a way where there is no way. Healing, hope, and a new dawn are God’s desire for all in the church, especially the victims of sexual abuse.

Williams and Cardinal Tobin’s witness and friendship from the center of the church, the United Nations declaration, and a growing world-wide commitment to human flourishing on behalf of children and young people make this Thanksgiving an extra special day of gratitude in our nation and in our world.