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  • A closer look at pastoral priorities

    With this column I begin a closer look at the six pastoral priorities for the Archdiocese of Portland that flow from our pastoral assembly held last fall. As you will recall, the pastoral assembly gathered the priests and pastoral council representatives from the parishes of the archdiocese in order to discuss and settle upon these priorities for the next three years. The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council has discussed the input received at the assembly and has fine-tuned these priorities at our last two meetings.

    The first pastoral priority is catechesis and faith formation. As with all of the pastoral priorities, five specific initiatives have been identified based on the input received at the pastoral assembly.

  • Missionary discipleship
    I guess I have a small confession to make. I went to the recent Convocation of Catholic Leaders held in Orlando, Florida, with very low expectations. I was unsure and somewhat skeptical about the intent and expected outcome of the event. I was pleasantly surprised, as was our local delegation.
  • Which came first?

    Which came first?

    We are all familiar with the popular riddle, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Although this riddle has no real answer, I would like to propose another riddle along the same lines that does have an answer: “Which came first, the archdiocese or the parish (or the school, or the Catholic institution, etc.)?”

  • Back in November, I told you how excited I was to be a part of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Assembly, a gathering of 110 parishes and more than 300 people. It was truly a wonderful experience of what it means to be the Body of Christ in mission for the sake of the Gospel. The assembly set pastoral priorities for the next three years, including voicing a strong desire for the Church to continue to emphasize works of mercy in the spirit of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. 
  • The message of Our Lady of Fatima: Perfect for Lent

    During this year in which we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, as promised I would like to reflect with all of you on the message that Our Lady left us. St. John Paul II stated that her message is even more relevant and urgent today than when it was first given.

    Before diving into the essential message that our Blessed Mother gave to the children of Fatima (Lucia, Blessed Jacinta and Blessed Francisco), it is important to recall that these apparitions officially have been approved by the Church. 

  • The power of silence

    A new book will be released in April by Cardinal Robert Sarah, who is the head of the office in the Vatican which oversees the Church’s liturgy.  The title of the book is “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise.”  I was asked to preview the book in advance of its publication.  It is a must read — watch for it.

    Without giving away much of its content, Cardinal Sarah’s book is a reflection on how we need more silence in our lives in order for us to encounter the living God.  In the “hell of noise” which plagues our world today, we shut out the voice of God in our lives.  We encounter God in the silence, where there is room for adoration and reverence for the one who created us and desires a relationship with us.

  • United we stand

    By now most of you have heard what happened during a Mass celebrated at St. Peter Catholic Church in Southeast Portland.  If you have not, I will tell you about it, and the beautiful response that it elicited from people of good will in our community.

    On Sunday Jan. 29, eight men walked to the front door of St. Peter Church and began bellowing during the Spanish Mass. They accused worshipers of not being true Christians, questioned the sexual morals of the women and harangued the congregation for being made up of immigrants. 

  • A Valentine's Day reflection

    “For stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion; its flames are a blazing fire.  Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away.” (Song of Songs 8:6-7)

    These words from the Song of Songs are often chosen by couples to be read at their wedding.  They speak of a depth, strength and power of true love, a love that should especially characterize those who enter into the covenant of marriage.  They are words to inspire and give hope to couples setting out on the path of a shared life.

  • A Marian Year - of sorts
    The date was May 13, 1981.  It was an otherwise beautiful spring day in Rome as Pope St. John Paul II made his way by “pope mobile” through the enthusiastic crowd of faithful and well-wishers.  Suddenly, shots rang out and the Holy Father slumped into the arms of aids, seriously wounded by the would-be assassin’s bullets.  I personally remember that day all too well.
  • The local church in western Oregon recently had a marvelous experience of what it means to be the Body of Christ in mission for the sake of the Gospel. When we use the term “local church,” we are speaking of the diocesan church under the leadership of the bishop, including all members united as one (priests, deacons, laity and consecrated religious). The experience to which I am referring was our Archdiocesan Pastoral Assembly.
  • The Church must be ready and willing, as Pope Francis has exhorted us, to accompany people on their spiritual journey. But the Church must always remain faithful to her mission and to her Savior in proposing the path that leads to true happiness, holiness, peace and joy.
  • We need to see these “if onlys” as the particular cross that we are called to bear at this time in our life. It is precisely these crosses that help mold and strengthen us in our Christian lives and witness. These crosses are the path to true holiness.
  • Far more important than what happens in a Catholic school day, or in an hour of faith formation class, is what happens at home.
  • In Poland: The time of mercy
    It is a complete understatement to say that this has been for me one of the most spiritually uplifting experiences of my life.
  • Many people have reduced being a good and faithful Catholic to being nice, tolerant and doing good works. They think if we do service projects for the poor and needy, and don’t make any judgments about human behavior and sin, then we are fulfilling the Gospel mandate.
  • At the end of our life, only one thing will matter. How have I come to know, love and serve God?
  • We are supposed to not just accept or be content with sufferings for our faith, but we should be glad and rejoice, not for their own sake, but because of Christ’s promise of the final victory in the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • This exhortation cannot be read in isolation. That is a danger that I frequently see when the Church issues a new document, even by the Pope. Some people will latch on to the new, thinking that this is all we need to read or know.

  • While “Amoris Laetitia” does not contain any change in the Catholic Church’s teaching or discipline regarding marriage and family life, Pope Francis does seek to orient the Church toward a new and invigorated pastoral approach, especially toward those in difficult and wounded situations.
  • It would be my hope and prayer that we in this local church of the Archdiocese of Portland would never lose sight of what our very existence is really all about, namely the salvation and new life that has been won for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • As we celebrate the Paschal Mystery this year (the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ), let us rejoice in the mercy of God for us his wayward children. And may we commit ourselves to celebrate that mercy in a recommitted way in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation by going to confession soon and often.
  • This shared work of charity is the passing on of Jesus’ love for us, and it not only brings God’s mercy to those in great need, but brings us together in a special way, united in the Holy Eucharist with Christ at our center. 
  • So, we have three things to reflect on and pray about (repentance, the brevity of our life on earth, and the need to die to ourselves) and three things to do with greater energy (pray, fast, and the works of mercy). Combine this with a vibrant sacramental life of Holy Mass and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, and I guarantee you will grow incredibly during this holy season.
  • So, let us begin our celebration of this Jubilee of Mercy at the starting point. God is merciful toward us sinners and he forgives us freely and unreservedly. Let us not fear to approach him in the Sacrament of his mercy.
  • He addressed there what has become a frequent and important theme in our Holy Father’s teaching.  It is the “throw-away” culture in which much of the world, especially the West, is now living.
  • If you are like me, over the past few weeks — perhaps since Thanksgiving — you have overindulged in the special foods and treats of the season. This can lead to a few extra pounds and clothes that are a bit tighter around the middle. This in turn leads to resolutions for the New Year. “I will get back to the gym.” “I will go on a diet.” “I will cut back on my drinking.” “I will quit smoking.” “I will walk every day.”
  • Mater misericordiae

    Hail Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope!

    My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

    These familiar words which begin the traditional prayer, the Salve Regina, take on special meaning for us during this Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis.  In fact, our Holy Father has asked that we pray this prayer regularly during this year of grace. Our Lady is truly the “Mother of Mercy” (Mater misericordiae) because she is the Mother of the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus has come to reveal the Father’s mercy, and the Blessed Virgin Mary brings him into the world, first by her “yes” to the angel’s message, and then in the manger at Bethlehem.

  • “Praise the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endures forever.” This line from Psalm 136 is a strong and beautiful reminder of the essential message that God wishes to communicate to all human beings, those created in his own image and likeness. It is the message of mercy. One might say that the heart of God is a heart of mercy. In fact, that is why the Father sent the Son into the world – to show us his mercy.
  • I have followed with no little concern the coverage of the recent Synod on marriage and the family in the media, especially in the secular media. If one did not know better, we might have thought that we were in the middle of an ecumenical council of the Church, a sort of Vatican III. Nothing could be further from the truth.
  • The Archdiocese of Portland recently celebrated the ordination of three permanent deacons and two transitional deacons. (Transitional deacons are men who, God willing, will also be ordained priests.) There is a moment in the ceremony of ordination that struck me particularly strong on these two occasions. It is when the Book of the Gospels is solemnly handed over to the newly ordained deacons.
  • The other day I came into my office at the Pastoral Center and announced, “Stop the merry go round, I want to get off for a while!”  This statement, meant very much as a lighthearted comment, was prompted by the latest “surprise” news from our beloved Holy Father, Pope Francis, concerning changes being made in the process for seeking a declaration of nullity for marriage in the Church. The last year or so has been quite a ride for the Church, both locally and on the international level. There is a lot going on!
  • With this column I bring to a conclusion a lengthy catechesis on the subject of marriage and family life. I wish to briefly recall that the reason for this extended teaching has been the attention being given these days throughout the universal Church to this important topic. We are between two synods of the world’s bishops on the subject of the pastoral care of the family. Also we are preparing for a World Meeting of Families to be held this fall in Philadelphia with our Holy Father.

  • “Who am I to judge?”  These may well be the most often quoted words of our Holy Father, Pope Francis.  They were delivered during an informal interview given by the Pope.  These words have very often been taken out of context and used to imply the Holy Father’s support for all sorts of things, most notably the gay lifestyle and even same-sex “marriage.”
  • Blessed Pope Paul VI made what, at the time, seemed to some like exaggerated predictions of what could happen in society. He predicted that there could be an increase in marital infidelity, a general lowering of moral standards, a disregard for the reverence due to women in their dignity as human beings (making them into instruments to satisfy man’s desire), and the interference of government in the most intimate and personal dimensions of marital life and sexual love.
  • In this series of columns containing a catechesis on marriage, before we go on to address the final two “hot button” issues current in our time, we need to discuss something very fundamental to marriage and even to the human person. This is the purpose and meaning of the gift of human sexuality.

  • In continuity with my previous column in this catechetical series on marriage, we are now looking at the sensitive and challenging issues facing people today. We will continue in this installment to examine the issue of divorce and remarriage, and what that means for Catholics who find themselves affected by this reality in their lives. It would be extremely important to review my last column, “But from the beginning it was not so,” in preparation for what follows.
  • In my last column before Easter in this series on marriage, the foundation was laid for why the Church has anything to say at all on these issues of marriage and family life, and why the faithful should rely on this teaching as solidly revealing the truth. The Church, by the will of God himself, teaches with authority and with the mind and heart of Christ himself on matters of faith and morals. This is an authority that the risen Christ gave to the Church through the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.

  • “For our sake Christ was obedient, accepting even death, death on a cross. Therefore God raised him on high and gave him the name above all other names.”

  • It does not take a rocket scientist to know that marriage and family life are facing challenges today unlike those that have been seen in previous generations. In this series on marriage that I have been presenting, it is time to take a look at these pastoral challenges to marriage in our time.
  • As we continue this important catechesis on marriage, it is time for us to bring together two important facts about sacramental marriage. We need to see how the essential properties and elements of marriage are, in a sacramental union, strong signs of Christ’s love for the Church.

  • In this catechesis on the nature of marriage we have been considering what marriage is as revealed by God and as written in the very nature of the human person, created as male and female. Most recently we have seen that Jesus Christ has taken the natural institution of marriage and elevated it to the dignity of a sacrament between baptized spouses. We saw that this sacramental bond is a sign of Christ’s nuptial bond with his Bride, the Church.

  • In my last column we continued our exploration of the Church’s teaching regarding marriage by introducing what we mean when we call marriage between two baptized persons a “sacrament.” It might serve well to review that previous column. Here I would like to reflect more deeply on the Sacrament of Marriage.
  • We continue our catechesis on marriage with a look at what we mean when we call marriage a “sacrament.”
  • In the first installment of this catechesis on marriage, we explored the very nature of marriage as it comes forth from the hand of God who created the human person, male and female, in his own image and likeness. We discovered that all marriages, whether sacramental or not, have four essential elements and properties.

  • As I stated at the end of my last column on the Extraordinary Synod on Marriage, I believe we are currently reaping the fruit of 50 to 60 years of inadequate and failed efforts to form and catechize ourselves as to the true nature, purpose and meaning of marriage. I intend with this column to begin a formal teaching on this matter. This seems like a good time as we prepare for next year’s Ordinary Synod on Marriage and as we prepare for the World Meeting of Families to take place in Philadelphia next year.
  • At our recent meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, Md., the bishops from the United States who participated in the recent Extraordinary Synod on the pastoral challenges of the family reported on their experiences. One of them, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, spoke of a “tale of two synods.” By this he meant that the synod as reported and covered by much of the media did not match his own experience at the synod. He jokingly stated that he must have been at the wrong synod!

  • Good eating, smart exercise: Preventing heart disease
    Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, killing 600,000 people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Oregon, Providence is the top provider of cardiovascular services, serving more than 13,000 people a year.
  • When God confronted Cain after callously killing his own brother, Abel, Cain responds to God with the now famous question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)  This phrase from the Sacred Scripture has been used throughout the ages to help ponder our responsibility toward one another in the community of the human family.
  • I date myself by adapting an old advertising slogan from years ago when I say, “When Pope Francis talks, people listen.” That cannot be denied. Our Holy Father has a very “plainspoken” style that many find refreshing. He “tells it like it is,” as they say. He has even made some comments that have been taken out of context and misinterpreted and misrepresented. His classic “who am I to judge” remark is a perfect example of this.
  • We have been going through some very significant changes at the Pastoral Center, the “headquarters,” if you will, of the Archdiocese of Portland, serving the many parishes and schools of western Oregon.  I can say without hesitation that these changes are not easy, but that they are timely and needed for us to move forward with the work of the New Evangelization in this local Church.
  • Over the Fourth of July weekend I had the privilege of celebrating for the second time the Freedom Mass at the Grotto in Northeast Portland.  This has become an important and beautiful celebration of freedom for many cultures present here in the Archdiocese and beyond.  Thousands of pilgrims came together for this Mass, as they do every year.  I would like to share with you the heart of my message to those pilgrims.
  • One of the most moving moments for me since the election of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, occurred on the day after his election. Pope Francis made a surprise visit to the Roman Basilica of St. Mary Major. There he prayed before the image of our Lady under her title “Protectress of the Roman People” an image very dear to the faithful of Rome.  What was Pope Francis’ first instinct upon his election as supreme pastor of the universal Church? To run to our Blessed Mother for her motherly love, guidance and protection!
  • No matter how one looks at it, May 19, 2014 was a day of monumental significance for Oregonians. On that day a federal judge ruled that the language voted into our State Constitution by Oregonians 10 years ago, recognizing marriage as being between one man and one woman, was unconstitutional according to the U.S. Constitution.  This ruling and the consequences of it will have a profound effect on all of us.  Marriages between persons of the same sex are now possible and recognized in our state.
  • We are nurtured by the love and care that our mothers give us all through our lives.  I often tell young people that no matter how old you get, or how important you THINK you are, you are always your mother’s child.
  • In the hallway outside my mother’s room hang three pictures taken in 1995 when she visited me while I was studying in Rome.  They are pictures of us with St. John Paul after a private Mass with him at Castel Gandolfo. I said to my mother the other day, “Think of it, mom.  We are in a picture talking to a saint!”

  • Having been here in western Oregon for a full year now as your new archbishop and shepherd, I can tell you that one of my greatest joys has been to work closely with Catholic Charities and its wonderful work of caring for so many needs in our communities. It is just one of the aspects of the life of this local Church that I am so proud to be a part of.

  • As of this writing, I am just two weeks away from the first year anniversary of my installation as the Archbishop of Portland. As someone once said, “It has been quite a ride!” I thought I would just pause for a moment, reflect on this past year, and give some sense of my vision for the future.
  • I remember as a young person growing up in Catholic school a trend which tended to de-emphasize traditional Lenten practices of penance in favor of works of charity.  It went something like this:  It is more important to do something positive for someone else than to deny yourself something. Even at the time it struck me that there was something not quite right about that.
  • Most of us experience our lives as Catholics in our own parish community. This is where we hear the Word of God and celebrate the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist. It is there where our children are baptized, receive their first Holy Communion and are confirmed. It is there that we also say goodbye to family members and dear friends in the rites of Christian burial.
  • We have just celebrated (Feb. 2) the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the temple. It is a feast traditionally known as “Candlemas” as it is marked by the practice of the blessing of candles and a procession into the church with lighted candles. We remember on this feast that Christ is the true light who has come to dispel the darkness and gloom of sin and death.
  • A very interesting and providential confluence of events occurred recently over three days in my ministry as your archbishop.
  • Heartfelt greetings to all of you
    My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
    In place of my usual column, I wish to use this space to send all of you very special and heartfelt greetings at this holy time of the year. We celebrate the coming of Jesus as Savior, born of the Virgin Mary, even as we prepare to welcome him again when he comes in glory. Christmas is always one of my favorite times of the year, and I think I got that from my father, who always became like a little kid at Christmas.
  • Dec. 6, 2013
    It has been all over the news (both secular and religious) that the Holy See (the Vatican) has asked for a consultation on marriage and family life in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops to be held in Rome in 2014. The theme of this extraordinary synod will be The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.

  • Friday, Nov. 15
    Sunday, Nov. 24, the Solemnity of Christ the King, will bring to a close this current liturgical year for the Church as we prepare to begin our “New Year” with the First Sunday of Advent on the following weekend. The Solemnity of Christ the King this year has an additional important significance. It will bring to a close the “Year of Faith” proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI.

  • Nov. 1, 2013
    Many of us remember growing up referring to the month of November as the “month of All Souls.” By this we mean that it is a time of the year when we spend special time praying for our loved ones who have died, and even praying for the deceased who are strangers to us, but nevertheless in need of our prayers. It is also a month when we make special effort to visit the graves of our loved ones, praying for them there as they await the resurrection of the body at the end of time.
  • Oct. 4, 2013
    Just one day after the publication of the now famous interview with Pope Francis that had many wondering if the new Pope would somehow be “soft” on the issue of abortion, he made some of the strongest remarks I have seen from a Pope condemning this moral and social evil. In an address to OB/GYN doctors our Holy Father had the following to say:
  • Sept. 20, 2013
    One of the special “perks” of being a priest (or bishop) is that you have the privilege of celebrating weddings in your own family. I recently had the honor of celebrating the nuptial Mass of my oldest niece, who is also my goddaughter. The experience had me reflecting on the true meaning of marriage, especially at a time when marriage and family life are in such trouble, and when efforts are afoot to redefine the essential meaning of the marital covenant itself.
  • Aug. 16, 2013
    It seems like we have been hearing and talking about the “New Evangelization” for at least two decades now. But what does it really mean, and how will it happen? Blessed John Paul II first introduced us specifically to this concept, and Pope Benedict XVI moved the mission forward by establishing a Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, conducting a world synod of bishops on the New Evangelization, and by calling the Year of Faith. Pope Francis seems poised to continue this great enterprise, adding his own unique thrust to it.
  • Aug. 2, 2013
    As most readers are surely aware, Pope Francis has issued already his first papal encyclical letter to the whole Church. It is entitled Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith). Our Holy Father openly acknowledges in the first paragraphs that the work on the encyclical was largely that of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Francis humbly adds that he took up the work of Pope Benedict’s almost completed draft of the letter and “added a few contributions of [his] own.” But make no mistake; this encyclical is that of Pope Francis.

  • July 19, 2013
    Since receiving the pallium from the hands of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, on June 29, I have been asked more times than I can count what the moment meant for me. Both before and since traveling to Rome to receive the pallium I have reflected deeply on that question. What is the essential symbolism of that simple woolen band that I now wear on my shoulders at solemn Mass?
  • June 21, 2013
    On June 8, I had the profound joy of ordaining eight men to the holy priesthood for service in the Archdiocese of Portland. This followed just a few weeks after ordaining four men as transitional deacons. God willing, they will be ordained priests next year about this time. To help put this in perspective, in the seven years that I served as the Bishop of Marquette before coming to Oregon, I ordained 10 fine men to the priesthood — just two more than what this one ordination accomplished. You can imagine my joy.

  • As of this writing it has been just a little over two months since I was installed as the new Archbishop of Portland. It has been a true “whirlwind” since that beautiful installation Mass at the University of Portland on April 2. My time has been occupied with getting up to speed on the operations at the Pastoral Center, unpacking and getting settled into my new home, and meeting new people who are involved in the life of the Church here in Western Oregon. And then came the Confirmation circuit! I understand that my predecessor, Archbishop Vlazny, referred to this as the “Chrism Trail.” Clever!

  • April 19, 2013
    As I emphasized in my last column, there have been a lot of changes in the Church lately, both locally and in the Universal Church. But one thing remains the same, and that is the mission Jesus Christ has entrusted to us to live and proclaim the Gospel message.
  • I think it’s pretty safe to say that the last couple of months have been quite a ride for those of us who are Catholic or who follow closely events in the Catholic Church. At the end of January it was announced to the good people of the Archdiocese of Portland that they would soon receive a new shepherd, namely yours truly.

GO
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