Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 21, 1934 when Father James J. Kane offered Madison's first Mass in Madison's Memorial Town Hall.
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From Paris to Mumbai to London; from Colorado Springs to San Bernardino, we have witnessed murderous rampages motivated by terrorism and/or mental derangement. The result is a horrific toll in lives, personal loss and grief, and lasting wounds to the souls of nations and peoples.

No matter what our religious or political beliefs, senseless hatred, rage and bloodshed are more than most of us can process – psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. Life goes on, but as we go about our daily routines and responsibilities, and tend to our children, there is increased apprehension. We are alert to news reports cautioning about the possibility of ongoing murder and mayhem.

Many people ask: What does faith have to say about all this? What has God revealed to us about an appropriate response? And what about forgiveness? How are we to show mercy and live by “fraternal love” in the face of heinous crimes?

Pope Francis has proclaimed Dec. 8, 2015, to Nov. 20, 2016, as a Jubilee Year of Mercy. The theme for the year-long observance is “Merciful like the Father,” a phrase inspired by the Gospel passage in Luke that reads: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (6:36). Christ’s powerful words command us to imitate our heavenly Father by offering love and forgiveness to others without measure, rather than judging or condemning them as persons, even when their actions are evil.

This call to forgive unconditionally is certainly not easy to fulfill, especially in the face of heinous acts of murder and violence. Pope Francis makes a point of saying that mercy and forgiveness do not devalue justice or render it superfluous. On the contrary, the pope says, those guilty of wrongdoing “must pay the price.” But justice is not hatred and vengeance. God himself is both perfectly just and perfectly merciful.

Those who are the victims and survivors of horrible crimes will never find peace and healing in hatred and vengeance, but only by handing everything over to the justice and mercy of God. Christ is both crucified and risen. In him, evil has been overcome by the power of faith, hope and love. Saint Paul tells us: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” If we live for this world only, Paul’s admonition may seem inadequate or impossible. But in the light of God and of eternity, what Paul says is compelling and doable by divine grace.

On Dec. 8, when Pope Francis pushed open the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, he did so as a “simple, yet highly symbolic” act to “highlight the primacy of grace.” He told the crowd of 70,000 pilgrims: “The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history.” Our holy father wants us to remember: “Were sin the only thing that mattered, we would be most desperate creatures. But the promised triumph of Christ’s love enfolds everything in the Father’s mercy.”

Mark Twain once described forgiveness as the “fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” The fragrance of our prayers rising up to God as a result of hatred and violence is rightly offered for the repose of the souls of those who have died and for the living who bear the wounds of personal loss and grief. But if we are to be true to Christ and his words, we must also pray for those who have committed such horrendous crimes or who are ensnared and tempted by the devil to do so.

We can all learn something from Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, who died in 1897. When she was only 14, she read in the newspapers about a criminal named Pranzini who was convicted of having committed three murders in one night. Staunchly unrepentant, he awaited his execution. Thérèse was determined to win for him the grace of repentance. She prayed for this triple murderer. She did penances for him. She had a Mass offered for him. She writes: “I wanted at all cost to prevent him from falling into hell.” Thérèse hoped for a sign that her prayer was heard, and afterward it was reported that at the last moment, on his way to execution, Pranzini had asked for a crucifix and had pressed his lips to it three times. Thérèse was delighted, and thereafter called Pranzini “my first child”; that is to say, a sinner whom God’s mercy had brought to spiritual rebirth thanks to her prayers.

As for us, and the Jubilee Year of Mercy in our daily life, I invite everyone to make a special effort to perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy to help others who are in spiritual, moral or material need. We are challenged to be agents of mercy, striving to bring hope; to shed the light of Christ on those in darkness and despair; and yes, to implore mercy amid the crimes and sins of our time.

For an evolving calendar of jubilee events and activities – all grounded in service and prayer – you can go to Whatever you do, however great or small, you can be confident that it will be made spiritually fruitful by the power of our merciful God.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.